by KATHERINE WUTZ
Blaine County commissioners agreed on Monday that both elected officials and county employees would be expected to strive for excellence in the upcoming fiscal year.
The county has begun hashing out a "vision statement" for fiscal 2013, in an effort to focus the county's funding priorities. This was the second of a series of workshops meant to establish the county's main priorities, which will determine how departments and outside agencies are funded.
The county is following what is known as an "outcome-based budgeting" process. County Administrator Derek Voss introduced this budgeting method in 2010, which bases funding on how well the goals of county departments or outside organizations align with the county's priorities.
But choosing those priorities became a tricky situation during Monday's meeting, as commissioners were faced with choosing a dozen top priorities from a list of 40 objectives.
Commissioner Tom Bowman questioned the objectives as a whole, saying that many were vague or had no clear call to action involved. He said many are more like guidelines than goals, and called them "platitudes" before clarifying what he meant.
"When I say 'platitude,' I mean something that's valuable, but I don't know how to act on it," he said. "What are we trying to accomplish?"
Voss said many of the objectives, such as "striving to exceed expectations" and "utilizing a stable, transparent and repeatable budget process" are meant to be goals that department heads, not the commissioners, determine how to achieve.
"It would be [their] responsibility to show you the 'how,'" Voss said.
But department heads present said they did not think the current list was either usable or helpful. GIS Program Manager Joel Hall said during the meeting that he knows what his department does, but has a hard time trying to match its goals to those of the county's.
Holly Carter of the Blaine County Sheriff's Office said the list needs to be condensed.
"It kind of loses its focus," she said.
The commissioners eventually agreed to see if all departments could agree on one top priority for the upcoming year—modeling excellent government, for example, or balancing the budget—while considering all other objectives on an equal basis.
The budget process will continue at noon Tuesday, April 24, at the Old County Courthouse in Hailey.
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