Wednesday, July 11, 2012

County considers building fund

$873,000 in courthouse renovations needed


By KATHERINE WUTZ
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County Commissioners grappled with the problem of setting the price of government during budget deliberations Monday, struggling to make revenues cover all desired expenses.

County Clerk JoLynn Drage said during the meeting that if the county chooses to tax new construction and take its allowable 3 percent increase in property taxes, that could bring an additional $273,000 to county coffers.

Drage said the 3 percent increase does not provide a 3 percent increase throughout the county budget since the portion of the budget funded by property taxes is less than half the total general fund—last year, it was $8.2 million rather than the total $18 million.

Commissioner Larry Schoen urged the commissioners to approve the 3 percent increase.

"I know my own property value may have declined, and I know that my neighbor's property value may have declined," he said, adding that county property values are down to 2004 levels. "So if I am a citizen, I'm thinking, if property values are at 2004 levels, the price of government should roll back to 2004. Well, a lot has happened."

The proposed county budget for fiscal 2005—the revenue for which was based on 2004 property values—was roughly $13 million. Schoen said that adjusted for inflation, the county budget should be almost 19 percent higher than it was in 2004. However, the proposed budget is only 15 percent higher.

"County expenses have not even kept pace with inflation," he said. "We have reoriented how we spend money, but we have neglected a lot of capital needs of the county."

One major budget request is a retrofit of the county courthouse, roughly $100,000 to fix a large crack where the stairway tower and the main building join. An August report suggested the stairwell could pull away from the building in an earthquake, cutting off emergency access.

County Operations Director Char Nelson also requested $453,000 to repair the courthouse roof and do a $300,000 retrofit of the building that would install braces to tie floor joists to the outside of the building. About $18,000 is needed to upgrade a security system in the Blaine County Annex Building across the street as well, Nelson said last week, and a Road and Bridge shop in Carey is in desperate need of a remodel.

Commissioner Tom Bowman said that for him, fixing the county courthouse is a priority despite its high price tag.

"We have our employees in this building every day, we have the public in this building every day," he said. "We have to try to do something this year. If this building hurts somebody, and we had made the decision not to fix anything, that would weigh heavily on us."

County Administrator Derek Voss suggested that the commissioners could form a building fund, in which the county would set aside a certain amount of money each year to pay for large remodels and heavy equipment such as the road graders that the Road and Bridge Department requested.

"We have some departments where I marvel at their willingness to come in to work every morning," Voss said. "The buildings have just deteriorated."

But the problem, said commissioners, was that there are certainly more improvements needed than there is money to pay for them, even with the allowed increases in property tax revenue.

Drage said money could be used from the county's reserve fund, but that wouldn't solve the larger problem of what to do with ongoing capital expenses. Still, Voss said, it could be a solution to the county's big-ticket remodels that are immediately needed.

"Money needs to be looked at as a tool," he told commissioners. "If it's just to say that you have money sitting someplace, it's of no value. To the extent the board can free up funds for known concerns, I think that's a prudent way to act."

Budget deliberations will continue today at 9 a.m. at the Blaine County Courthouse in Hailey.

Kate Wutz: kwutz@mtexpress.com




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2020 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.