Merrimack County Proposes Nearly Flat Budget

By Bronwyn Asplund-Walsh, Chair, Merrimack County Commissioners

December 21: Well, another election is behind us, and another County budget has just been proposed to the new legislative delegation by the Merrimack County Commissioners. I am proud to announce to you that we, the Commissioners of Merrimack County, have passed on to your local State Representatives a proposed budget which is nearly flat-funded (a 0.29% increase from last year’s budget, which was flat-funded).

Your local State Representatives will now meet in various sub-committees to determine and pass the County Budget for this year. Already, your local representatives have been very busy attending County meetings. I look forward to meeting with them individually regarding issues concerning our nursing home, Department of Corrections, Sheriff’s Department, etc.

You must know how hard our department heads have worked, both to improve their individual departments and to maintain costs. Ron White, administrator for the Department of Corrections, has begun a request for proposals for pharmaceutical services for the Department of Corrections which should significantly cut costs for medications. Our Merrimack County Child Advocacy Center continues to improve and expand its programs while increasing its funding through donations.

We recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding between the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension Service and Merrimack County which will continue our long-time unique partnership. This will set the stage for an even stronger association, while enabling Cooperative Extension to become even more efficient.

Our County Administrator, Kathleen Bateson, received the County Administrator of the Year award at the New Hampshire Association of Counties annual convention. Through her efforts, Moody’s investment service has awarded Merrimack County an Aa3 rating, citing our conservative budgetary management practices, our large and stable county tax base, and manageable debt burden.

As Chair of the Merrimack County Commissioners, I attended a National Association of Counties Justice and Public Safety Symposium in Fulton County, Georgia. We discussed with some of the nation’s foremost justice and public safety experts topics like: how to safely lower jail and juvenile detention populations; cost-effective pre-trial justice programs; cyber-security; and diverting the mentally ill from the criminal justice system. We also considered how county officials can best shape federal policies and funding to ensure that services for residents in their communities are enhanced. Keynote speaker was former US Ambassador to the United Nations Andrew Young. We also heard from Dr. James Austin, former director of the Institute on Crime, Justice and Corrections at George Washington University.

The National Association of Counties has for several years offered a free prescription drug discount card through the counties. Now, they also offer a dental discount program. For both of these discount programs, residents of Merrimack County can contact our office at 796-6800 for their free discount cards.

Lastly, I am proud to announce that I have been elected as Vice President of the New Hampshire Association of Counties (NHAC). County government was established in 1771. There are now 10 New Hampshire counties. NHAC represents the interests of county governments in New Hampshire. Our affiliates include the Registers of Deeds, County Attorneys, County Nursing Homes, County Corrections, County Human Services, and County Human Resources.

Please feel free to contact me at any time if you have any questions or issues concerning our County government.