According to an article in this weeks Meredith News, Belknap County commissioners are asking towns that use county dispatch service to pay a fee. Towns that use the service 24/7 would be charged $20,000. Those that use it part time would be charged $6,000.
This came to light at a recent Meredith Selectmen meeting, when the Town Manager reported that he received a call from one of the commissioners with this proposal.
Meredith uses county dispatch on a part time basis, much like Moultonboro does.
On the surface, $20,000 seems like a bargain for full time dispatch service. In reality though, towns in the county are already paying for all dispatch services through their tax levy. One would assume that the delegation budgeted for 2017 dispatch cost and it would be reflected in the county apportionment.
So why the additional fee? Clearly this is an effort to increase revenue to balance the budget that the commissioners believe has significant shortfalls, to the extent that they will not be able to staff the new corrections facility. I get that, but the idea of additional charges for services would open the proverbial can of worms. If this were implemented, towns could opt in or out of this service and not pay the fee, If they opt out, should the apportionment in the budget for dispatch services be returned to the town? Using Moultonboro in Carroll County as an example, we would expect that 23% of the dispatch budget be returned to taxpayers since we would not use their service.
The biggest gotcha is that towns that do not use some county services can probably make a reasonable argument that they should only pay for services they actually use, and not ( like Moultonboro) continue to subsidize the rest of the county with nearly one quarter of the tax levy.
Food for thought: maybe this is a model to reduce the county tax burden and expenses. List the services the county provides and towns choose what they want to utilize and pay for. Each town then pays its fair share.
Probably not quite so simple, but you get the idea. Maybe there is a base amount every town pays to cover those services that can't be unbundled, but after that, you have the option to pick and choose.
Think it will ever happen? Me neither.