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County budget passes, but not without debate

Washington County Commissioner Phyllis Corso urged other board members to reject the 2013-14 budget during a called commission meeting held Sept. 10.
“The budget process hasn’t been transparent, it hasn’t even been translucent,” she said in a prepared speech. “I couldn’t figure out with an x-ray machine all the changes in the (dollar) amounts that were made.”
Corso also said it was unacceptable to miss the state deadline for submitting a budget, adding the practice “seems to be good ol’ Washington County tradition.”
According to Corso, that practice is a strategy designed to put commissioners under additional stress to pass a budget.
“I feel fully manipulated,” she said.
Commissioner David Shanks thought the budget shouldn’t be voted on because it lacked an accompanying narrative that offers additional explanation.
“We have to take care of the basics, and we have mixed and matched operating and capital expenses,” he said.
Corso and Shanks were among four commissioners, along with Sam Humphreys and Alpha Bridger, who opposed the budget in a vote that passed 18-to-4. Commissioners Joe Sheffield, Gearld Sparks and Steve Light were absent.
Commissioner Mark Ferguson made claims that county officials who are conservative with their budgets are penalized when officials who spend every penny of theirs get the full amount returned in the next budget.
“It’s a poor way to run the government, and it’s not the way to run a business,” he said.
Commissioner Roger Nave predicted some of the office holders would be back to request additional funds before the end of the fiscal year.
Other commissioners were more positive.
“I think the commission has done a good job of giving increases (in salaries) with no property tax increase during the last three years,” Commissioner Mark Larkey said.
Commissioner Mitch Meredith agreed.
“I think the mayor should be commended, and this commission should support and get behind the budget rather than trying to roadblock it,” he said.
Corso began backpeddling by the end of the meeting.
“In my speech, I was not trying to place blame and say it was a horrible budget,” she said. “I want to look at what we can do to solve problems, and there is always room for improvement.”