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Washington County Commissioners candidates Q&A Part 1

August 21, 2010|By HEATHER KEELS
(Page 3 of 6)

Callaham: Essential services providing for public safety, health and welfare must be protected to the greatest extent possible. Public education must be placed in "health & welfare" and constitutes more than 50% of the budget. Adding the funding for fire & rescue, police, and water & sewer the total is 90% of the budget. Therefore, the first cuts must come from the last 10% -- those non-essential items such as travel, conferences, pay incentives, and recreation funding that we can do without for awhile and still accomplish the basic mission of government.

Cline: Public services such as fire, police, and EMS must remain at a high level of efficiency. If you were ever in need of their services you understand how important of a role they play in our quality of life. ... All levels of county government should work together to cut costs. To work together as a team every department should be open for cost cutting measures and every county employee should be a stakeholder in utilizing the taxpayer's money wisely. A review of all levels of management in all departments to determine their effectiveness and continuation as a cost savings measure should be enacted.

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Frazee: Health and safety (law enforcement, fire & rescue, sanitation, citizen need) are the most important budgeted services to be provided by county government. Further budget cuts should start within the county that would allow the county to still provide all services to county citizens while maintaining a solid infrastructure. Employee days off, non-essential department cutbacks, temporary purchasing and wage freezes are just a few examples of what may be forced budget cuts.

Henson: Areas that we could cut expenses are: (A) Driving county owned and maintained vehicles longer and (B) reduce permits and inspections staffing.

McKinley: If budget cuts come there would be no areas that I would "protect" without first assessing all areas. Like most citizens, I find some agencies like Health and Safety, Education and Law Enforcement to be a high priority. However these areas would be just as subject to budget scrutiny as any other. I also think that it is important that the various funded areas work together to duplicate services where possible, or cooperate in other ways to help the county balance its finances. I would begin budget reviews by looking "close to home" first i.e. county government itself.

Miller: If the County Commissioners found it necessary to make budget cuts, I would recommend we protect law enforcement, rescue services, and higher education in light of the opportunities being offered by Hagerstown Community College. If a budget cut were to become necessary, I would recommend maintaining a tight rein on hiring which will allow the county to reduce its wage and benefit costs primarily through attrition. Going forward, such "vacancy management" will remain an important overall cost strategy for the county.

Munson: For everybodys protection we need to protect the sheriffs department. I believe we would have to cut most or all CIP projects first, but I think road repairs should be the last projects to be cut. I also think we should stop buying new county vehicles and run the old ones longer and we need to look at our staff, are we over staffed?

Simmers: We need to protect any incentives and services that attract and retain jobs in Washington County. Economic Development activities need to be protected -- activities that help retain current employers and attract new ones, such as getting the information on all available state and federal funding, tax incentives, etc. to employers. Cuts: Like any other business, cuts may be needed in areas that are not being fully utilized. Residential and commercial construction is just a fraction of what it was 3 years ago; the level of county services in those areas should be considered.

Vindivich: I think the county should continue to reduce its budget and at the same time I would protect all areas of the educational arena since I believe that continued investment in our educational system pays long term exponential dividends. I feel that the one area of the budget that could receive cuts would be the capital improvement in the County Road Projects. This area should be visited again in the future when the State releases funding from "Road Usage" Taxes.

Wivell: It is difficult to say what should or should not be cut, as the answer to this question depends on the severity of the revenue decline. It is important to continue to re-evaluate priorities and focus on the basic needs of the county. Obviously, public safety, adequate roads and education remain basic priorities of local government. Washington County has been fortunate that it did not build expenditures into its baseline budget as other counties had done, thus not incurring the same "structural deficits". The County must continue to exercise constraint and conservative fiscal policy.

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