WEST STEWARTSTOWN — The public will get its first look at the 2020 Coos County budget this Saturday, Dec. 7, at the annual budget hearing. The hearing will get underway at 10 a.m. at the West Stewartstown nursing home.

With work still to be done, the Coos County commissioners will present a $41 million budget, up just over $2 million or 5 percent from the current budget of $39.3 million.

The amount to be raised by taxes is also up about $2 million, from $15.5 million to $17.6 million, an increase of 13 percent.

At the commission’s Nov. 13 meeting, Chairman Tom Brady stressed that the budget is still a work in progress. Commissioner Paul Grenier said he would like to see the tax increase cut in half by the time the body hands its final budget proposal over to the delegation according to minutes of the meeting.

Not included in the budget is a $2 an hour increase for all the county’s nursing staff. Both county nursing facilities are suffering with open nursing staff positions and the two administrators said county wages need to be competitive because there is a shortage of nurses. The wage increase would cost the county close to $1 million. Grenier said he could not approve such an increase without discussing it with the delegation.

The operation of the two nursing homes continues to be expensive for the county. The West Stewartstown has a budget of $12,293,210 with revenues of $8,228,840, for an overall loss of $4,064,370. The Berlin facility has a budget of $13,961,630 and revenues of $10,539,880, for an overall loss of $3,421,750.

The commission is also estimating $952,500 less in surplus to reduce taxes. In the 2019 budget, the county used $2,952,500. That figure is reduced to $2 million in the 2020 budget.

The budget includes $211,800 to renovate the county house into administrative office building.

The delegation and commission will hold a join meeting at 9 a.m. to vote on a continuing resolution for January-March spending, to authorize the county treasurer to borrow in anticipation of 2020 taxes and address any other business.

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