Weatherford Democrat

Big Story AM

August 30, 2011

Too little, too late?

Commissioner Roth says slow go on county budget

WEATHERFORD — Judge Mark Riley’s fiscal year 2011-12 proposed county budget was filed in the clerk’s office July 29, three days ahead of the Aug. 1 deadline, according to County Spokesman Joel Kertok. It was posted online Aug. 2.

But interpreting that budget for county commissioners and discussing it in a public forum are long overdue, according to Precinct 3 Commissioner John Roth.

“We have one month before we have to approve our tax rate,” he told the Democrat. “We have new guys who have no experience. This limits our ability to be flexible and make changes.”

According to the law, the budget must be approved by Sept. 30.

So far, commissioners have not been included in the budget process at all, Roth said, and the process seems to be moving ahead more slowly than those in other counties.

Several years ago, commissioners worked on the budget as a group, he said, but the process has evolved to where the judge is now the only one meeting with department heads and elected officials.

“We’re not aware of any special needs they might have,” Roth said. “It’s a whole lot easier to plan when you have more time to plan.”

Court efforts to retrieve written information from county departments and officials — in order to make informed choices at budget time — have been only partly successful, Roth said.

In March, the court approved a quarterly questionnaire, requiring department heads and requesting all general fund elected officials to file reports on revenues, expenditures and staffing needs.  

“The first quarter report was presented in the middle of April, but the second one was overlooked,” he said.    

In a county meeting June 14, Roth asked Riley to set a calendar for budget discussions and proposed the court meet every other Monday during July and August, piggybacking budget discussions on other meetings.

But as of Monday morning, Roth said, commissioners had received no schedule and still had no information about the new budget other than what had been posted online.

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