The proposed 2002-03 Wallowa County budget of $11,626,752 is being published this week in a 12-page, tab-sized Budget Report inserted inside issues of this week's Wallowa County Chieftain which are circulated inside the county.

"The whole idea of this format is to make it more understandable to the public," said Wallowa County Commissioner Ben Boswell. This is the second year the county has used the tab format, which allows for the inclusion of a budget message, graphs and much more explanation of the budget than is allowed for in the regular format.

For example, the document notes that only $1,144,314 of the budget, or less than 10 percent, is from local taxes. A graph shows that , surprisingly, the largest resource of the county is actually the beginning fund balance (39.82 percent), with grants (21.46 percent) and federal receipts (10.16 percent) following. Boswell said the large beginning fund balance is needed each year to pay bills until property tax receipts start coming in November and other resources are received to pay for major purchases, sinking funds, contingencies and liability insurance (the county is self insured for liability).

Boswell said that county department heads were asked to compile a "zero increase" budget, one that was no larger than last year. Then they compiled an "add back" list for later consideration by the budget committee.

According to the budget message submitted by county budget officer Gail Tally, "Through careful cutting and developing additional revenue, most of the additional requests were funded. These include a new computer mainframe, insulation for the county library, a personnel classification study and tax support for the weed control and dog control programs."

The proposed budget compares to $10,736,323 adopted for 2001-02. The new budget would actually be smaller than last years', except for $800,000 in grant money that was added in for construction of a proposed county justice services building. Though the project has not been approved by the county yet, the money must be included in the budget to be spent.

The budget also includes a $66,000 grant the Wallowa County Health Department was told to expect from the federal government to plan for and respond to bioterrorism attacks.

Though he said the approved budget included wage increases for county workers, Boswell declined to go into detail because of ongoing negotiations with the workers' union and an unfair labor practices complaint which has been filed with the state Employee Relations Board.

One typo-type error that appeared in the budget document was in the Public Health Department budget on page 8: the personal services line should read $153,376 instead of $543,376, an amount that is more than the total.

The budget explained in the Budget Report has already been approved by the Wallowa County Budget Committee and will be considered for adoption by the Wallowa County Board of Commissioners at a public hearing at 9 a.m. Friday, June 21.

"I enjoy budgets and budgeting, but I'm always aware that it affects people and their lives," said Boswell about the budgeting process. "I think we're providing good services to the people. The real test is to ask, 'would they miss you if you were gone?' And I think the answer is yes, they would miss us."   

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