Commissioners hope to educate legislators about state budget

Local News

State budget negotiations are underway, and local officials are being proactive to keep another 2015 budget year from happening again.

House Bill 218 is considered a “starting point” for the 2017-2018 state budget, but county commissioners said they’re ready to educate local legislators about the impact some of their proposed “cost savings” could have.

“It is a $31.5 billion budget and it’s about $800 million less than what was proposed by the Governor,” County Administrator Margaret Gray said. “It does contain cuts in funding for criminal justice, human services, administrative programs that counties perform.”

Commissioner Michael Pipe said the time to act is now.

“We need to react differently from how we reacted in 2015,” he said. “2015, we had a seven month budget impasse and it was very harmful to many counties across the state.”

At the top of their list are significant cuts to those vital county programs.

“We are mandated to provide adult probation services. Currently, counties receive $16.2 million, split 67 ways to help provide those services,” Commissioner Mark Higgins said. “Right now, House Bill 218 gives us zero dollars. Juvenile probation services, $18.9 million, split 67 ways. House Bill 218 gives us zero dollars to split 67 ways.”

Higgins said these programs are state-mandated.

“We would like to educate our legislators that if you’re going to mandate that we provide dozens of services, we would appreciate if you funded them,” he said.

Commissioner Pipe stressed to county staff that the commissioners will lobby on their behalf and said starting these discussions in April is a step in the right direction.

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