Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Commissioners approve 2015 budgets

County’s spending plan about $300K higher than this year

Express Staff Writer

    The Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday approved a final budget for fiscal year 2015 of $25,521,625, nearly unchanged from a tentative budget passed on Aug. 12. The budget figure does not include $2.45 million in the county’s Land, Water and Wildlife fund.
    The 2015 budget is about $300,000 higher than the current year’s.
    “The cost of providing services is increasing—it’s hard for a county to keep up with a strong demand for a high level of service,” Commissioner Larry Schoen said. “We’ve got some big-ticket items in the 2015 budget, so I think we’ve been very careful in looking out for the county’s resources.”
    Commissioner Angenie McCleary said she was pleased with the efforts of county department heads to find savings in their own budgets.
    “I think the budget reflects a balance of different issues,” she said.
    However, Commissioner Jacob Greenberg pointed out that some of the savings found in the 2015 budget were items that were temporarily postponed. He said he hoped that review of county department functions and funding needs, to be undertaken by County Administrator Derek Voss, will guide the way to more permanent savings.
    Also convened Tuesday as the Blaine County Ambulance District, the board approved a $2,441,025 Ambulance District budget, unchanged from the tentative budget.
The approval came under a cloud of warnings from local fire chiefs that the current level of ambulance service will not be sustainable without a budget increase in the near future. They said reliance on paid on-call employees will not be able to provide needed staff in the face of increased demand for ambulance presence at special events and for backcountry rescues.
    “We’re all looking at full-time staffing in order to meet our obligations under the ambulance contract,” Ketchum Fire Chief Mike Elle said.

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