PRESS RELEASE FROM BELKNAP COUNTY COMMISSIONER
June 14, 2016
Belknap County Commissioner Hunter Taylor has announced that he will seek election to the position he now holds in the upcoming election cycle. Taylor was appointed by a unanimous vote of the County Convention to fill the position of County Commissioner for District Three (representing Alton, Center Harbor, Gilford and Meredith) following the resignation of Steve Nedeau in December, 2014. In making his announcement, Taylor said: “My original intention was to serve only the remainder of Mr. Nedeau’s term. Having served for the last seventeen months, and having worked closely with Chairman DeVoy, I believe I have been part of a meaningful effort to bring efficient and responsive governance with fiscal responsibility to our county. Significant things have been accomplished in spite of a very serious split in the Board of Commissioners which at times has been a serious impediment to cooperative efforts. There are matters of far-reaching importance that require serious attention going forward. I believe that I have a lot to offer in experience, judgment and temperament (with an occasional lapse in this area) and would be honored if the voters of my district gave me the opportunity to serve another two year term.”
As to accomplishments which Taylor views most significant, he pointed first to the new community corrections center and renovations to the existing jail, which are both scheduled for completion before the end of 2017. He said of this project: “This will give us a facility set up for inmate programming aimed at substance abuse correction and prevention of recidivism. The plan we are implementing is based on the Sullivan County model, which I was the first to suggest as a starting point for our planning (in my 9/1/14 letter to the Laconia Daily Sun).Under the leadership of Chairman DeVoy, our building committee has designed a facility aimed at the particular needs of our county. The projected cost of the facility is less than $8 million, as opposed to the $42.6 million building which had been advanced by the previous Board of Commissioners (a savings of $34.6 million).
Taylor also pointed to the savings that had been realized in health insurance costs over the last seventeen months. $135,000 was saved in 2015 by switching health insurance carriers. An additional savings of more than $50,000 has been accomplished by collective bargaining agreements with three of the four county unions. Two of these contracts have been finalized by County Convention approval of cost items. The third, which is substantially similar to the first two, is scheduled for Convention review of cost items later this month.
Taylor also noted that the budgets for 2015 and 2016 reflect the degree of fiscal responsibility and careful planning that should be expected of a Board of Commissioners. “In 2015, we inherited a budget submitted by the prior Board of Commissioners that increased the amount to be raised from the taxpayers by 10%. We cut the number to 1.3%. Our 2016 proposed budget was level funded—it had a 0% increase.”
As to future issues of importance, Taylor explained that the aging population of Belknap County will present a tough challenge. “Currently the county is required by state legislative action to pay for the non-federal share of medicaid benefits for long term care for needy seniors. This care can be either residential care in any licensed nursing home or in home assistance for those who choose this over nursing home care. In 2015, Belknap County paid $6,046,755 for this senior care, which is separate from and unrelated to the expenses used to operate the Belknap County Nursing Home. This expenditure represents 24% of the total expenditures of the county in 2015. Our county population is aging rapidly. Unless we do something, the senior care expenditure will continue to increase. Seniors overwhelmingly prefer to stay in their homes as long as possible and in home care is far less expensive than nursing home care. Therefore, it is vital that we come up with a program to address this need, and come up with it now before the crisis arrives.”