Recently an editorial published in the Manchester Union Leader titled, “Not our problem? Drug problem is a County problem” and a story, “Drug battle not over between Manchester and County” by Ted Siefer, cites a recent vote of the Hillsborough County Legislative Executive Committee to not fund a drug court in their budget as has been intiated and paid for, in whole or part, in other counties. A lot of criticism has arisen because of that vote and some of the rationale behind it. So, I reached out to our representative on the committee, Rep. David Pierce (R) Goffstown.
Here’s his response and clarification regarding the issue that I am posting with permission from the author.
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On Jun 7, 2015, at 10:48 PM, Dave Pierce <email@example.com> wrote:
Since I participated on the Executive Delegation preparation of the FY16 budget, let me contribute a little background on the funding of a Hillsborough County Drug Court – which wasn’t covered in the one-sided Union Leader article last Friday or today’s editorial.
The Executive Delegation on 29 May, first finalized all of the departments’ FY16 expenses as proposed by the Commissioners and reviewed/adjusted by delegation sub-committees.
These expenses were covered by a projected $42.8M in non-tax revenue and $48.0M in tax revenue. The goal offered by the Commissioners was to keep the $48.0M tax revenue flat with last year’s tax revenue; ie, therefore no change in the tax rate. But to do this, the commissioners had to use $3.8M from the Undesignated Fund Balance which shows up as non-tax revenue.
Over the last 5 years the County has been dipping into the Undesignated Fund Balance at the approximate rate of $3.0M per year. This practice keeps the tax rate artificially low. This practice over 5 years has reduced the fund balance from $18M to currently about $5.0M. As mentioned above, the Commissioners proposed the take out another $3.8M from the $5.0M. However, $5.0M is the minimum amount recommended by DRA to retain in the UFB as it should be in the range of 5 to 15 percent.
The Executive Delegation decided to stop this unwise use of UFB which would bring the balance significantly below the minimum 5% level. Therefore the $3.8M needed for revenue was moved from non-tax revenue to tax revenue. To raise $51.8M vs $48.0M would mean about a 10 cent increase in each community’s county tax rate. This issue was discussed at length by the Executive Delegation.
At this point the expenses and revenue was set to bring before the full Delegation and the Executive Delegation was ready to adjourn. Then Pat Long (rep from Manchester), out of the blue, offered a motion to increase the expenses by $450K to provide 1 year funding for a drug court. He offered no information as to how this amount had been derived or when such a court could stand up.
My take on the situation was that the Delegation had just finished resolving not to dip into the Undesignated Fund Balance, and being at some discomfort at having to raise the tax rate by about 8% there was little interest in supporting the motion to fund the drug court that had not been vetted by the Commissioners or any Delegation finance committee. The motion failed.
In closing, the reps at the 29 May Executive Delegation, from my observations, were very impressed with the effectiveness of a Drug Court due to a briefing from Superior Court Chief Justice Judge Nadeau and had the issue been presented earlier in the budget process the funding would have been more favorably acted upon.
I suspect the issue will be the key discussion point when the full Delegation meets on 23 June.
Rep. Dave Pierce