Grafton County budget proposal up nearly 5 percent

By PATRICK O’GRADY

Valley News Correspondent

Published: 05-26-2024 5:00 PM

NORTH HAVERHILL — The Grafton County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on a proposed $56.3 million budget on Tuesday at the county administration building beginning at 6 p.m.

The spending plan represents an increase of about 4.8%, or $2.5 million, from that for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

The commissioners said in their letter to the county delegation of state representatives that the budget will require $27.1 million to be raised in taxes, which is an increase of about 2.5%, or $650,000. The commissioners have proposed using a little more than $6 million in unassigned fund balance to offset some of the tax impact.

Spending increases include a 3% cost-of-living adjustment for non-union employees and higher health insurance costs.

The commissioner said they received notice of a 25% increase in health insurance rates effective July 1, and that would have added more than $1 million to current costs. To offset some of that increase, the county will be increasing co-payments and deductibles for the two plans it offers employees.

The budget also includes several new positions, budgeted to begin in January. These include a full-time deputy sheriff, a full-time maintenance assistant and an information technology director. Additionally, one of four correctional officer positions that were not funded this year, is being restored to the budget.

“The commissioners had very thorough discussions regarding these positions and decided that these positions are necessary for the continued successful operation of each department,” the commissioners said.

With additional nursing staff hires, the county was able to reduce its expense for contracted nursing by $800,000 to $2.8 million. The commissioners are also recommending that capital expenses of $434,000 come from American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA, funds because the money has to be spent this year.

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Revenues are projected to increase more than 14% in the coming fiscal year with nearly all departments anticipating higher revenues. The largest increase in revenue projections is from the nursing home because with more staff, the nursing home population is expected to grow, resulting in an estimated revenue increase of $2.45 million.

For the current year, a little more than $7 million was used from the unassigned fund balance to have a slight tax decrease. The figure will drop to $6 million for fiscal year 2025 because the county used $5 million in surplus for its Broadband Middle Mile project. The $12 million project, funded with federal money, is bringing fiber optic internet to “hubs,” such as town halls, in two dozen Grafton County towns, some of which are in the Upper Valley.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.