Bonner County wrapping up its budget

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SANDPOINT — Bonner County’s elected officials and department heads are nearing the end of its budget process for the 2018 fiscal year.

A number of issues have been addressed in order to provide a more fiscally responsible budget for county operations, according to county officials.

Over the last eight years Bonner County’s total budget has increased 41 percent from $38,822,915 to $54,745,817, while total projected revenues from all sources only increased 16 percent from $35,222,124 to $40,951,763.

Two years ago, commissioners were advised by the county’s auditors that this use of savings to fund ongoing operating expenses was not advisable and not sustainable.

County officials said it can be argued that many of our current budget challenges came from actions approved under previous boards of commissioners, as well as expensive litigation over an extended period of time. When the housing market fell, county employee numbers were cut appropriately but as the economy and the market recovered the County not only filled empty positions but added several new departments and a number of new employees.

During the first round of recent budget workshops, all three commissioners found agreement in recommending numerous cuts. Unfortunately when the requested budget enhancements were added to the baseline budgets the numbers remained at an unsustainable level.

To deal with this situation commissioners held a department head meeting where County Clerk Mike Rosedale laid out the issues regarding the unsustainable growth and requested ideas on how to make the budget work. Commissioner Dan McDonald challenged the elected officials and department heads to find additional cuts so the budget gap could be bridged.

“Through the exceptional work of our department heads and elected officials we made further budget adjustments enabling us to reach our budget goal for this next fiscal year. Even our smallest departments found ways to cut their budgets,” commissioners said in a news release “The challenge was given and our good people rose to meet it. Bonner County is now back on the road towards fiscal responsibility.”

While it’s not yet confirmed, it appears Bonner County will be cutting close to $3.55 million from the budget which may reduce the levy rate on property taxes for the 2018 fiscal year.

A hearing on the spending plan is set for Aug. 28.

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