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County Delegation to tackle budget

March 27, 2019
OSSIPEE — The Carroll County Delegation will meet March 29 with plans to finalize the 2019 county budget. The public meeting begins at 7:30 p.m. in the second-floor meeting room at Carroll County Administration Building in Ossipee.

At the beginning of March, the delegation seemed on track to set a record for the earliest a county budget had been set in at least the past 20 years. By law, the delegation, made up of the 15 state representatives from Carroll County, is required to set the annual county budget by March 30. If they fail to do so, the budget proposed by the county commissioners is adopted.

The delegation received the proposed $33 million budget at a public hearing in December. They split up in five different subcommittees and, over the course of two months, came up with their recommendations for the March 4 meeting. They managed to make it through approving over half of the budget in the three-and-a-half-hour meeting. The delegation recessed and reconvened March 11 for three-hour session to approve the rest of the expense and anticipated revenue lines.

The March 11 meeting also brought the report from a subcommittee charged with recommending the best way to fund the $5 million restoration and archival of land records and plan books in the registry of deeds. State law requires the registry to preserve records and repair them as needed. County Registrar Lisa Scott originally recommended that the county consider getting a bond to fund the project that could be completed in three years rather than continue funding it at $100,000 a year and take 50 years to complete. The committee recommended not to bond the project but to put $600,000 in the 2019 budget. The delegation compromised and put $300,000 in the budget on March 11.

Rather than finalize the entire budget March 11, they decided to take a week to mull it over and recessed until March 20 in Concord. The legislative session that day ran long, however, so they convened and immediately recessed the county meeting.

March 21 they were back at the county complex in Ossipee. It was expected to be a quick meeting to finalize the budget and decide how much, if any, to use from the surplus funds to offset the county tax rate. Scott was on vacation and not at the meeting. To the surprise of many, during the two-hour meeting, they cut the budget $880,531.

It started with Glenn Cordelli (R-Tuftonboro) making a motion to reduce the overall 2019 budget to the 2018 level. That failed. The group eventually took a break and went into caucus. When they came out, they had reached a compromise to split the difference.

Rep. Ed Butler (D-Harts Location), in making the budget cut motion, said, "I'm not happy to make this motion. It is incumbent on us to have come to a responsible budget without having to make a wholesale reduction. However, here we are."

He added that the democratic caucus did not agree with reducing the budget all the way back to the 2018 level but compromised and agreed to meet in the middle.

The middle is $32, 299, 975. The total cut to their originally approved budget is $880,531. Of that, the group cut the $300,000 for the registry records archival work. Rep. Knirk (D-Freedom) said that in fact the cut does mean they are just "kicking the can down the road" by not doing more of the archival work this year. He said several members are interested in changing state law to no longer require that all records be preserved in their original form.

After agreeing to the budget cut, the group then voted unanimously to add money back in so the commissioners can hire a human resources director. Though the commissioners had not asked for this funding, the performance audit highly recommends that the county have the director. At least two county commissioners are reportedly in favor of the idea while the county administrator and repeatedly spoken against the need for the position.

At the close of the March 21 meeting, the delegation left it up to the county commissioners to decide where to cut the remaining $580,531 and to report their recommendations back to the group at the March 29 meeting.

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Varney Smith
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