Advertisement

herald- editorial - 5/2/01

May 02, 2001

Joining forces might help counties prosper



Does West Virginia have too many counties? It's an odd question, but the lawmaker who asked it was not worried about how to keep track of all of them, but how to help them solve their financial problems. His proposal should spark a serious discussion of how governments can work together to cut costs.

State Sen. John Mitchell, D-Kanawha, opened the discussion two months ago when he asked whether the state really needed 55 county governments, each with its own county commission and local board of education. Mitchell got a study proposal approved for interim study and picked up some conditional support this week from Gov. Bob Wise.

Wise said he was concerned because some counties have fewer than 8,000 residents and are hurting financially. It's not the state's job to tell them what to do, Wise said, but to give them the flexibility they need to raise revenue.

Advertisement

In our view, raising revenue is only one part of the puzzle. The other is cutting costs. Does it make sense to duplicate agencies like police departments just because of a line on a map? And shouldn't small counties be encouraged to band together when it's to their advantage, such as when they're buying municipal supplies like road salt?

For some counties, for example, it might make sense to share a professional land-use planner with a neighboring government, with each paying for a portion of his or her time on the job.

How could the state help? By providing professional help to show governments how such time-sharing arrangements might work and some incentives for counties which manage to combine services and/or departments.

In some instances, citizens will resist. For example, It's hard to imagine parents willingly giving up their own county's school board. But it shouldn't be difficult to agree on an arrangement for sharing school bus maintenance. In such cases, yielding a little bit of control should net a few extra dollars for use in the classroom.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|