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Proposal to save county jobs and money

By Maggie Wright and several hundred concerned petition signers

To Ravalli County Commissioners:

You have publicly announced that there will be a budget shortfall of approximately $43,000 over the remaining months of FY 2012. You sent an email out to your department heads on October 4, 2011 asking them for ideas as to how to address this shortfall. So, in that spirit of exploring all available options, we are presenting you with a proposal that would not only take care of the $43,000 but would improve the County’s bottom line significantly beyond that. Here is our proposal:

• Empower your department heads to come up with the money that you need to balance the books.

–Your General Fund budget for FY 2012 is somewhere in the neighborhood of $4.4 million. $43,000 is less than 1% of that amount.

–Ask your department heads to look into their budgets and come up with 1.0% of each department’s budget that can be “contributed” back to the General Fund and allow them to find the ways to tighten their belts that will work best in their individual departments.

–Ask the department heads to specifically itemize any reduction in quantity or quality of services that would occur as a result of these budget cuts.

–Savings to County:  $43,000

Eliminate home-work mileage claims for Commissioners

–You budgeted $20,000 ($4,000 per Commissioner) for FY 2012 to pay for you to drive between your homes and the County Administration Building.

–Although an allowance for this mileage is permitted under Montana State law (MCA 7-4-2108), you are not required to submit your mileage claims and that would save the County money.

–Other County employees do not get reimbursed to travel to and from work. Is it necessary or fair for the County Commissioners to get this perk?

–Very smart political move for you and one that would be highly supported by County citizens of all political leanings.

–Savings to County:  $20,000

Create a Planner/Administrator position in the Planning Department so that job responsibilities can be handled by one person.

–This, of course, necessitates letting Terry Nelson go. However, since he is still in his probationary period, you are allowed to terminate his employment without cause. However, if you feel like you need cause, Terry Nelson lacks the qualifications to effectively and legally deal with the business of the department that he is supposed to manage, namely planning. This is demonstrated by his request and by your decision to hire another person to fill the County Planner vacancy (Tristan Riddell’s position) rather than just have Terry absorb those job duties.

–According to the APA (American Planning Association) website, a full-time planner in the lower end of the salary scale can expect to make somewhere in the range of $40K-$60K per year. Tristan was making $37,000/year (plus benefits) when he left and Terry is making $45,000/year (plus benefits). If Terry were to be replaced by a planner that could both do the planning on the few subdivision issues coming into the department as well as handle any administrative duties that weren’t already being done by the department’s office manager, the savings would be substantial.

–Savings to County: from $22,000/year (if Terry were replaced by a $60,000/year planner) to as much as $53,000/year (if Terry were replaced by a planner making the same salary that Tristan was making) – these numbers do not take into account the savings that would come from lower benefit costs.

• Reduce the Commissioners’ salaries and work hours by 40%. MCA Statute 7-4-2107 states that “each board may elect to serve on a part-time rather than a full-time basis and receive part-time annual salaries based on the annual salary established in 7-4-2503(1)(a) for the clerk and recorder.”

–Commissioner Kanenwisher has already stated publicly that “the duties of the board can be adequately address by three members”. In that case, each currently sitting commissioner would go to .6 (60%) full-time employee status which would make the salary costs equal to 3 full-time commissioners. The work hours could easily be reduced and divided by each board member working 3 days per week with the schedule of which days any one particular commissioner worked rotating each week. A simple schedule could be set up to facilitate both the board and the public knowing whether a specific commissioner would be “on duty” or not.

–There are numerous benefits that would come from this:

–The county taxpayers would get the benefit of having the diversity of 5 commissioners while only having to pay the equivalent of 3 full-time commissioner positions;

–Having 5 part-time commissioners would not only reduce cost but would enhance the democratic process here in Ravalli County as it would provide for more divergent views and ensure the opportunity to more fully explore solutions to problems.

–Maintaining 5 commissioners would keep the integrity of the citizen vote in 2006 creating the 5-member board of commissioners but would provide the fiscal relief of only paying for 3;

–It would eliminate the costly and time-consuming process that would need to take place in order to change Ravalli County’s form of government from 5 to 3 commissioners;

–It could take effect immediately, so that even if the process of changing the form of government from 5 to 3 commissioners is still desired by the citizenry, we’ll see immediate change in our fiscal situation;

–It would bring the local county government structure in line with the Constitutionally recognized format of “part-time citizen government” that is in place at the state level and would significantly reduce the size of the County government.

–Cost savings to the County over 12 months would be, not figuring in the savings due to fewer benefits being paid out:

–Greg Chilcott: current salary – $55,286/year (plus benefits) – going to .6 time would save the County $22,114 over the next 12 months;

–JR Iman: current salary – $52,312/year (plus benefits) – savings to County:  $ 20,925

–Suzy Foss: current salary – $51,334/year (plus benefits) – savings to County:  $ 20,534

–Matt Kanenwisher: current salary – $51,334/year (plus benefits) – savings to County:  $ 20,534

–Ron Stoltz: current salary – $51,334/year (plus benefits) – savings to County:  $ 20,534

–Total savings if 5 commissioners went to .6 time:  $ 104,641 over the next 12 months.

Many local families have taken the hit during the last round of job cuts – we are presenting you with a list of viable options that will show that all levels of county government are willing to share the burden of reducing costs, not just the county workers on the lower end of the pay scale.

All of these options make sense…all of these options are fair….all of these options show a level of fiscal responsibility that the citizens of Ravalli County demand from their government officials. And all of these options add up to a savings to the taxpayers, your bosses, of $220,641!!

We urge you to do the right thing and use your authority as the leaders of Ravalli County to implement these changes immediately.

2 Responses to Proposal to save county jobs and money
  1. Marc Cooke
    November 7, 2011 | 12:07 am

    I second that!

  2. Sue Miller
    November 3, 2011 | 2:25 pm

    Maggie: Thank you for your well thought out and pertinent opinion. I hope you will consider running for a spot on this council in the future. Clearly, you have spent significant thought and time into your research and ideas – I hope the County Commissioners actually take your ideas into consideration. The plan to lessen their time and cut mileage is especially significant. Seriously, I had no idea they get paid mileage to go to work from their homes – what kind of thoughtful person would do that in a time of budget woes and job cutting? Sounds like citizens of Ravalli County may need to “occupy 4th street” in front of the County Commissioners’ offices.

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