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County Proposes $38M Budget

North Haverhill — Grafton County commissioners are proposing a fiscal year 2014 budget of almost $38.1 million, a 2 percent increase driven in large part by higher contributions to the New Hampshire Retirement System.

The budget would add several new county jobs, including another full-time correctional officer, but also includes $194,000 in savings as the county switches to an about-to-open woodchip plant to heat most of the buildings at the county complex in North Haverhill.

“It’s a pretty straightforward budget this year,” said County Executive Director Julie Clough.

The commissioners’ proposed budget, which still awaits review and approval by the county delegation, comprised of Grafton County lawmakers in the New Hampshire House, will be the subject of a public hearing tomorrow night at 6 p.m. at the Grafton County Administration Building in North Haverhill.

The three commissioners, Democrats Michael Cryans, of Hanover, and Martha Richards, of Holderness, and Republican Ray Burton, of Bath, unanimously approved the recommended budget on April 18.

It includes a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase for county employees, and the budget summary notes that county officials are still negotiating with the United Electrical Workers union, which represents workers at the County Nursing Home.

The budget would add a full-time correction officer and clerical position in the Sheriff’s Department; increase the hours of an investigator in the County Attorney’s Office while also adding a part-time file clerk there; make a part-time mental health court coordinator and an information technology position full-time; and add a part-time position in the Nursing Home’s health information department.

Adding or increasing the hours of the positions would add $216,616 to the budget.

Almost half of the proposed $756,158 budget increase — $371,623 — would come from higher rates the county must pay to the New Hampshire Retirement System to help cover pensions for county workers.

“It’s a mandated cost. There’s nothing we can do about it,” Clough said.

But with the county poised to open its biomass heating plant next month, fuel oil and propane costs are expected to decrease dramatically. Even with the expected $100,000 annual costs for woodchips, fuel savings are expected to be close to $200,000.

The county also expects to see lower electricity rates from Woodsville Light and Power, the municipal power company serving the county complex.

Clough said the proposed budget includes $3 million in surplus funds from the 2013 budget that commissioners are using to lessen the impact on taxpayers. If the budget is approved as proposed, the anticipated amount to be raised in taxes will increase by $545,532, or 2.6 percent.

John P. Gregg can be reached at jgregg@vnews.com or 603-727-3217.

CORRECTION

The budget proposed by Grafton County commissioners totals $38.1 million. A headline on an earlier version of this article gave an incorrect figure.