Whitman County commissioners underfunded

The Whitman County commissioners said at a State of the County address on Thursday that they are unable to properly fund public safety, public health, law enforcement and elections, citing a lack of adequate revenue from state legislation.

The commissioners are tasked with looking at goods and services the county provides and ultimately deciding on what they can and cannot accommodate.

“Local government – municipal and county – are charged with the things that we see every day,” Commissioner Michael Largent said. “Things that underpin democracy. I think (those things) are being threatened by the funding levels the state has been willing to provide for us local people.”

Commissioner Art Swannack believes how they handle future issues will depend on the state government’s next budget and where they will take funding from to account for extra expenses.

“I don’t know how the legislature is going to find the revenue, and not take money out of the funds that go down toward the county governments,” Swannack said.

The commissioners are currently in the middle of their second budget amendment. They work with the 12 other elected officials in the county and the 23 departments to create an agreement that can satisfy everyone’s needs.

Commissioner Dean Kinzer said the commissioners are having trouble finding enough revenue to reform the Weed Control Policy, which is going almost unenforced. He called the matter “a form of the chicken and the egg problem” that cannot be feasibly funded.

Praise was made in relation to the upkeep of the county’s parks and recreation, however, concern about whether or not the Commissioners can uphold those forums was established.

Kinzer provided that 58 to 60 percent of their budget comes from tax due to the increase in cost for consumer goods and a decrease in income.

Largent said Public Auditor Sharron Cunningham discovered revenue that wasn’t properly allocated, revealing a problem within treasury procedures. He said they need timely, accurate and responsible policies to design a new process.

“The problem isn’t a people problem,” Largent said, “it’s a process problem.”