The Blaine County commissioners will continue to whittle down their wish list into a tentative budget for fiscal 2020 on Tuesday, part of a busy day of discussions for the board.
Chairman Jacob Greenberg doesn’t expect the board to finalize a tentative budget during the meeting, scheduled for 9:05 a.m. on Aug. 6 at the Old County Courthouse. In accordance with state law, this year’s draft must be published no later than Aug. 13 and set on Sept. 3.
As of press time Thursday, County Clerk JoLynn Drage was still compiling the ledger. But the board has already cut millions off initial requests from department heads, which came in some $5.6 million over the approximately $21 million the county can fund, Drage said.
Next year’s budget will likely spend deeper into reserves and emergency funds than previous iterations, Commissioner Angenie McCleary said in an interview last week. Typically, the county sequesters 15 percent of the budget for what Drage called “unpredictable, uncontrollable em-ergencies.” That policy was set by a previous board, and the recent commissioners have attempted to avoid touching it.
This time, McCleary thinks it’s OK, since the biggest scoop from those funds is a one-time expenditure, not a compounding one: a tentative $500,000 cash commitment to back ARCH Community Housing Trust’s expanded plan for a pair of 30-unit affordable housing developments on the site that once held Blaine Manor in Hailey. The commissioners had also donated the land for the project, which the board valued at about $2 million, according to Greenberg.
Drage, however, has urged caution.
“I felt that they used a little more of the reserve than they should have last year,” she said in mid-July. “In my mind, it wasn’t sustainable.”
Tuesday’s meeting will likely include a few tweaks, though both Greenberg and McCleary said the board was in general accord about what should and shouldn’t be included in the budget. Still, it all depends on the numbers that Drage delivers next week.
“Once we set the tentative budget, we should be on good footing,” she said.
Flying Heart hearing
At 4 p.m., the board will hold another hearing to collect public comment on parking restrictions implemented by landowners in Flying Heart Ranch subdivision, as both sides continue to negotiate a resolution that keeps them out of court.
So far, that’s led to a back-and-forth on parking alternatives to the road through the subdivision, a privately maintained street atop a public right of way. The homeowners association suggested a parking lot closer to state Highway 75—about a third of a mile from the river, according to Commissioner Dick Fosbury.
After a 45-minute executive session on July 30 to meet with county attorney Tim Graves, Greenberg and Fosbury instructed him to make a counteroffer: two designated parking areas, immediately adjacent to the public easements laid out in Flying Heart’s 40-year-old plat. (Commissioner Angenie McCleary was absent.)
The commissioners requested that representatives of Flying Heart respond by next week’s meeting.
Prior to installing the no-parking signs in June, Flying Heart residents complained of litter and trespassing on private property near the river.
So far, the commissioners have heard mostly from the other side, urging the board to fight the subdivision’s parking ban, according to Greenberg.
“Everybody wants us to take a stand, and fight for public access,” he said Tuesday.