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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of August 1 - 7, 2001

  News

Budget is basically status quo

County finances offer little 
room for new ideas


By TRAVIS PURSER
Express Staff Writer

With about the same amount of money available for its budget next year that was available this year, Blaine County will easily fund the status quo, but there wonít be much room for innovation.

There will be no new administrative help that could free up time for county commissioners to plan public policy. And, public transportation planning will get only a meager boost.

The county commission has been hearing budget requests from the heads of its 19 departments and elsewhere since July 10 and is scheduled to give tentative approval to most of those requests on Aug. 6 when it meets at the old Blaine County Courthouse at 4 p.m.

After that meeting, the budget can be reduced but not increased. The commission must pass the final version by Sept. 4.

County Clerk Marsha Reiman and her staff have been tweaking the numbers on the requests this week and are expected to have a tentative budget of about $13 million completed by Friday. About $5.4 million of that would come from property taxes, about $5 million from county fees and fines and the rest from state and federal grants.

One item that wonít get funding this year is a proposal to hire a county administrator, something Blaine County has never had.

Commissioner Sarah Michael pitched the idea on July 12 to fellow Commissioners Mary Ann Mix and Dennis Wright, who both slammed it.

Michael, who is in her first year of elected office, said the commission spends too much time on day-to-day administrative matters, which prevents commissioners from planning, prioritizing issues and leading in general.

An administrator would change that by freeing up commissionersí time, Michael said. An administrator would coordinate departments, hire staff, oversee the budget and manage grants.

"The goal here is to have some consistency" in the creation of public policy, she said.

In an apparent dismissal of Michaelís request, Mix said she would "take it under advisement." Mix said she was offended at Michaelís suggestion that commissioners donít lead.

Wright said he was "absolutely not" ready to consider the idea.

Wright and Mix were not quite as critical of a budget request from Beth Callister, Wood River RideShare coordinator.

Callister asked the commission to approve $23,343, or 30 percent of the $77,810 total proposed budget for Rideshare in 2002. The remaining money would come from Ketchum, Sun Valley, Hailey and the state.

The money would pay for the continued services, such as scheduling and emergency rides home, to people who carpool in the Wood River Valley. Also, Callister and other transit advocates contend RideShare is a critical starting point for planning and launching other public transportation programs.

The largest increase Callister proposed for the RideShare budget was in labor costs, from $22,500 to $34,000.

Callister proposed a marketing increase from $17,187 to $18,000. And, she proposed spending $2,000 on a Web site and $2,000 on training, both of which were not on the previous budget.

Mix said she could not approve Callisterís budget given the negative comments of about half a dozen county residents to whom she had recently talked. They criticized current plans supported by Callister and others to expand bus service in the valley and create paid parking in Ketchum.

"Iím just explaining the feedback that Iím getting," Mix said.

Wright said he worried that Callister would each year ask the county for more money.

While Michael said she was comfortable with Callisterís request, Mix and Wright said they would consider approving a $15,000 request, not $23,343.


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.