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County money

Dear Editor:

As the county budget process nears completion, I want to publicly thank the entire county staff and our other elected officials for their terrific efforts in an unprecedented series of changes to how we do business at the county.

If we stay on track, together we will have cut the 2014 budget by 8.5 percent, balanced it in accordance with state statute, while also balancing our revenues and expenses (spend only what we earn) for the first time. Also under that reduction and balance, we will give county employees a 2-percent pay increase (the first in five years) and absorb a 10-percent increase in employee insurance costs, and carve out $500,000 to start rebuilding a Capital Fund.

I am proud of how well our staff and elected officials have worked, and worked together to get this done. If there are no last-minute surprises and the final budget reflects this direction, unlike last year, I will vote to pass this budget. This is a big improvement in how we manage and spend the taxpayers’ money. One in which we can all take pride, and you deserve.

We have also made other, non-budget changes to policy, internal performance, staffing, and our corporate structure that will make us more effective and accountable. I want to encourage folks with an interest in how we spend your money to review and weigh in on the budget. Now is the time.

We do need to start building a Capital Fund to get out of costly and inefficient emergency mode on every problem, like the failing courthouse building. But with the roads still in such poor (albeit some greatly improved!) condition, this year is not the time to set aside the entire $500,000 we “scrubbed” from the budget for the generic, future Capital Fund.

For 2014, I have recommended that we put at least $300k of those funds to work on improving road conditions (specifically gravel, mag chloride and potholes) in the county. Staff have said that we can apply more gravel and mag chloride, and fill more potholes, with minimal additional staff or operational costs, if they had the materials.

The BoCC will be considering this change in the budget for the next couple of weeks. We often say that we would spend more money on roads if we had it. This coming year we can and should demonstrate that.

Michael Whiting

This story was posted on November 21, 2013.