Friday, August 19, 2011

County prepared to review final budget

Expenses for 2012 estimated at $26.4 million

Express Staff Writer

Blaine County's 2012 budget process could wrap up next week, as the county commissioners are set to review and possibly approve a draft final budget on Tuesday, Aug. 23.

This year's budget has been described as a mental wrestling match by County Commissioner Tom Bowman, who said he struggled to weigh the importance of funding outside agencies such as the Hunger Coalition with the public opposition to any tax increase to support that funding.

"My mental wrestling mat is about worn out," he joked during a budget meeting last week.

The current draft budget sets expenses at approximately $26.4 million, which will require the county to take an allowable 6 percent increase in the county portion of property taxes.

Commissioner Angenie McCleary said county homeowners will see an increase of about $5 per $100,000 in home value on next year's tax assessments.

Commissioners agreed last week to eliminate three county positions and switch health insurance providers in order to cut expenses. Switching to Blue Cross will save about $300,000, said County Clerk JoLynn Drage, and will allow the county to give its employees an across-the-board cost of living increase of 1 percent.

Outside agencies such as the Senior Connection and Mountain Rides bus service would all be funded at fiscal 2011 levels. The Hunger Coalition and Sustain Blaine would see increases in county funding.

"The budget we're putting forward is a stable one," said Commissioner Angenie McCleary last week. "I don't think that we can meet our fiscal priorities and what Blaine County needs with further cuts."

Tuesday's discussion is scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey. Public comment is invited.

Katherine Wutz:

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