The Tillamook County Pioneer sent a series of questions to the Tillamook County Board of Commissioner candidates. We compiled these questions based on input from various community leaders. The Tillamook County Pioneer will publish the answers in a series. This is PART 3 of the six part series. Here are the candidates answers to Question #3:
3. What are the county commission’s current spending priorities? How, if at all, would you change them?
MARY FAITH BELL
Judging by the County budget hearings, the County Commission’s spending priorities for the upcoming fiscal year may include an additional detective in the Sheriff’s Office. If this position is approved, that individual would reconvene the drug task force. The Tillamook Narcotics Team (TNT) was disbanded due to lack of staff to man the team. Since then illegal drug activity and associated child abuse and neglect have risen steadily. I absolutely support law enforcement and public safety as spending priorities. Sheriff Andy Long said that a new detective would also work on risk assessment for violence of individuals in our community. Risk assessment in law enforcement recognizes that dangerous individuals are very often known to law enforcement and that in many cases there are warnings signs. Risk assessment results in deliberate intervention before something terrible happens.
KARI MATTSON FLEISHER
The biggest funding priority currently is keeping expenses down. The road department has $500,000 annually to save for the restoration of the Three Capes Scenic Route over the next three fiscal years to keep the project on track. I also would like to see less money spent on outside legal fees for contract negotiations, this brings down morale and causes uncertainty. I would rather see our County council more involved in legal processes in all departments.
Much of the County is currently operating on a business-as-usual approach, basing spending for the upcoming fiscal year on that of the previous years.
Roughly one-third of the annual budget is spent on personnel-related expenses, and another one-third on materials and services.
Of the $20-25 million spent annually on materials and services, I would like to see as much of that remain in our local economy as possible. I will champion a policy that gives preference to local businesses, so that local businesses have a fair chance at getting a slice of that pie.
County’s budget committee workshop began today – I’ve moved into my new “office” for the next few days. I believe in firsthand knowledge to make informed decisions. Once commissioner, I’ll work collaboratively with the other committee members and commissioners to ensure fiscal responsibility is maintained through collaborative solutions to benefit our county. Today I can report a couple of spending priorities will be to address a $1.5 million shortfall in the FY 2018-2019 budget, where a 10% reduction across the board has been proposed. Hiring a code enforcement officer is another spending priority to address violators of county ordinances. I agree with both priorities and would not change them. We need to remain fiscally responsible, cost effective in providing services to our citizens and ensure a level playing field for all. I’ll continue as commissioner to remain on top of how monies are appropriated and spent.
Currently, I am not aware of the county commission’s current spending priorities. I believe we should maintain a healthy budget, and as county commissioner, would work diligently to that end. I would take a long hard look at the problems, discuss them extensively with the commissioners, and take a strong position of solving these priorities. It is important to complete projects at hand before beginning others, although future projects should be taken under advisement and can be studied while the current projects are completed.
The county commission spends a large bulk of its budget in the right places; namely public safety and infrastructure. Yet we still see times when our sheriff’s office has only a few deputies on duty of the entire county. We simply must prioritize our spending. We must be able to care for our county infrastructure and protect our citizens and visitors. If we cannot do those two things, the other services provided by the county are diminished.