If you compiled a list of the most common gripes about the Park County Commission, one might be the complaint that it’s “just” a part-time job. But the position goes well beyond …
If you compiled a list of the most common gripes about the Park County Commission, one might be the complaint that it’s “just” a part-time job. But the position goes well beyond three meetings a month, with commissioners getting an earful at the grocery store, on their home phone or at odd hours in their email inbox.
They have to make tough calls on contentious topics on a weekly basis — particularly as the primary overseers of the roughly $28 million that the county government spends each year. The buck literally stops with the commission.
With revenues sagging and costs rising, that task has gotten quite a bit more challenging over the past year; the county had to draw from reserves and put off routine road maintenance to balance this year’s budget. For months now, commissioners and staff have been diligently working on ways to narrow a roughly $2 million deficit — and they’ve come up with a number of common sense ideas that should help. As we’ve said before, county officials deserve credit for being proactive.
Commissioner Lloyd Thiel predicted Monday that, as the next budget year draws closer, the deficit will actually turn out to be less than $2 million. We suspect he’s right and hope commissioners do their best to avoid the truly draconian cuts until the picture is more clear. In the meantime, we also agree with Commissioner Jake Fulkerson — and the general consensus of the commission — that, “If it’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.” Even if Park County winds up being miraculously projected to run a surplus next year, commissioners should still take every opportunity to cut unnecessary expenses. For instance, we hope they act quickly to drop some un/underused GIS software licenses and save around $10,000.
But whatever happens, we hope the commissioners resist the temptation to impose across-the-board cuts. Asking every department to slash a set percentage from its budget may be the most egalitarian and politically correct solution, but it isn’t the best one.
For starters, not all branches of the county government were created equal. Those relating to public safety — like the sheriff’s office and road and bridge department — need to take precedence when times get tough. That’s something that commissioners have kept in mind in recent months.
However, it goes beyond that. Some departments have already made bigger cuts and, like any organization, some offices are busier while others have more downtime. And it’s those places with more slack that should be targeted as final cuts are made.
Digging into those details and choosing who to trim is an unenviable, thankless job sure to dig up controversy. But it’s the kind of tough task that we hope our commissioners are ready to undertake.