Burchell Budget Plan Would Cut Eight, including County Administrator

LACONIA — Belknap County Commission Chairman Richard Burchell, maintaining that the alternate budget developed by his fellow commissioners during an all-day work session 10 days ago is far too optimistic in its assessment of projected revenues, has offered an alternate plan which would radically reshape county government.
The plan, which Burchell says is based on realistic revenue projections, would cut eight full-time positions from the county, including that of the County Administrator, two of the three Finance Department positions, two positions in the County Attorney’s office, and one each from the Corrections Department, Maintenance Department and Registry of Deeds.
It calls for a full-time position of a business manager for $110,000, including benefits, and adding two part-time positions in the County Attorney’s office and one at the Registry of Deeds.
Burchell estimated a savings of $329,192 from those personnel changes.
Other recommended changes include dropping $34,200 in Genesis funding and going to a fee for service arrangement with the mental health provider, reducing contingency from $150,000 to $50,000 and adding $150,000 to pay for a jail schematic, which would add $15,800 to expenses.
He also suggested reducing anticipated revenue from the Pro Share program at the Belknap County Nursing Home by $100,000. He said that his proposed budget adjustments would result in an increase of $454,051, some 3.3 percent, in the amount to be raised by taxes.
Burchell did not attend the all-day work session on Feb. 6 at which fellow commissioners Dave DeVoy and Hunter Taylor increased revenue projections by $750,000, with $650,000 of that coming in the nursing home budget, which commissioners discussed at length that day with Nursing Home Administrator Mathew Logue who said state funding through the Department of Health and Human Services is uncertain and pretty much a guessing game.
The increased revenue projections, minus the $335,000 in added expenses, allowed the two commissioners to come up with a $400,000 adjustment in the proposed budget.
The work session was held in order to come up with cuts in the amount to be raised by taxes for the proposed county budget by by $1.1 million as requested by County Convention Chairman Frank Tilton of Laconia, who said he wanted to limit the increase in revenue to be raised by 2 percent. The convention had agreed to cuts amounting to around $740,000 in payroll and health insurance cuts from the original budget proposed by former Belknap County commissioners.
Burchell disagreed with fellow commissioner DeVoy at last night’s meeting of the county convention during a discussion of placing $440,000 in the Department of Corrections budget for jail planning purposes.
DeVoy and Taylor had originally tried to increase the amount in the county’s contingency fund from $150,000 to $660,000 but found out last week that a contingency fund can only be one percent of the total budget. They recommended increasing the contingency line to $200,000 and and putting $440,000 into the outside service/activity line of the Corrections Department budget.
”You don’t have the money” Burchell told DeVoy after the change was recommended, maintaining that it was ”based on revenue projections which I don’t believe are accurate.”
The convention did approve the transfer in its working budget by a 9-4 vote.
Rep. Guy Comtois of Barnstead attempted to initiate a discussion of Burchell’s proposal at last night’s convention meeting but Chairman Frank Tilton said that he was aware of it and that it could come up for discussion at the next meeting of the convention.
Last night’s convention meeting ended shortly after 6:30 in order to allow commissioners and Laconia representatives to attend the Laconia City Council meeting at which copies of Burchell’s budget proposal were provided to the public and the press.

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