What is wrong with twisting the truth? After all we were elected to cut the budget. For some State Representatives it seems this is the reality.
On February 24, Representative Steve Vaillancourt wrote on his blog in the “NH Insider” that a group in Hillsborough County successfully cut the Delegation Coordinator’s salary and hours reducing the county’s $88,000,000 appropriations by .0006 of the overall budget. In the same article, Rep. Vaillancourt stated that similar efforts were made to cut the approximate $100,000 salary and benefits of the Rockingham County Delegation Coordinator but was unsuccessful.
So, Steve, and your unnamed friends, I would like to offer my opinion and a few facts. I only know facts about Rockingham County, so I will speak about what I know and suggest next time you do the same.
The Rockingham County Delegation Coordinator doesn’t make approximately $100,000. The actual salary is $36,800; and pro-rated benefits for a part-time employee. This adds up to a total expense of $55,723 in salary, benefits, and employer obligations.
Secondly, your twist that the Delegation Coordinator is only needed for just over 10 times a year is incorrect. The truth is that the State Representatives who take their role seriously at the county realize that it is their obligation to know, understand, and to approve the county expenditures ($77,931,075 for Rockingham County and over $88,000,000 for Hillsborough County of taxpayer money). They recognize that it is the Delegation Coordinator who keeps them up to date on all aspects of the county. They rely on the Delegation Coordinator to schedule meetings for the executive committee, subcommittees for 15 different major departmental budgets, as well as full delegation meetings, public hearings and meetings to set elected official’s salaries. All bonding for the county requires special public hearings and votes that follow State RSA’s and require proper documentation by the banks and NH DRA. All meetings are set-up and coordinated by, minutes written, reports distributed, and documented by the county coordinator. This is just a small portion of the duties required. Every Representative who comes to these meetings needs to be logged in so they can be paid for mileage and meetings. She is responsible for running all aspects of the office, as well as being available by phone 24/7, 365 days (without complaint). Budgets, hand books and meeting agendas need to printed, posted, mailed and delivered. All of these need to be done within the requirements of the state RSA’s and within the NH Right to Know Laws. Only lawmakers who don’t take their county obligations seriously wouldn’t know how much the delegation coordinator really does for them. In Rockingham County, there are 89 State Representatives who can call on the coordinator to research any county issues and report back, set up a meeting, or follow-up on requests.
Lastly, Steve, cutting the coordinator’s work hours isn’t really a good place to start in cutting the county’s budget. The county coordinator is the eyes and ears for the county delegation. It is understandable that the county commissioners and the county finance officer may not want the State Representatives informed, but why would you and your unnamed friend not want to be informed? It is the job of the coordinator to keep the State Representatives well-versed on county issues. It is also the job of the State Representatives to be attentive to these situations, not just rubberstamp them and let the real costs go unreported or unquestioned. Just one recent example: Maybe the State Representatives should have asked more about the computer software program used to track employee hours. This has added about $100,000 a year to the budget. Was this was implemented without a proper public hearing? Was a multi-year contract signed without proper approvals from Delegation? Is there any real savings, or just more expense? Obviously, more expense than what you’re trying to cut.
In 17 years, the Rockingham County Delegation Coordinator’s salary and work hours have both increased. The salary is up about $18,500 over 17 years and work hours up about 50%. In the same time frame, the commissioner’s pay is up over 350%; the county budget has increased from approximately $44,500,000 to over $77,900,000. There was and still is only one Delegation Coordinator in Rockingham County, while almost every other department has grown in staffing.
In closing, 13 State Representatives, out of the 54 who showed up, voted against the budget In Rockingham County. They offered only two suggestions in budget cuts for a total of .00038 of the overall budget. They attempted to cut the Delegation Coordinator’s salary and the funding requested for the county fire grounds ($4000). Only one of those 13 State Representatives who voted in the minority has come to the county more than twice a year, and gets his information from one commissioner and the finance officer and not the county coordinator. That same State Representative believes that the finance officer who makes over $120,000 in salary and benefits doesn’t make enough money and last year proposed to add$120,000 to her budget. Sounds a lot like the fox is guarding the hen house. Maybe it is time for these State Representatives to take their commitment to the county tax payers a lot more seriously and do the job that they were elected to do. Get involved and get all the facts and information.
Sincerely, Norman R. Hurley
Husband of the Rockingham County Delegation Coordinator