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Commissioners preparing for future funding shortages

 

By Suzy Foss, County Commissioner

A recent article in the Ravalli Republic has many people believing that the funding for women’s health care provided by our Public Health Department will be rejected by the county in the next grant period. This is not true. The question that was posed to Commissioner Iman and myself by the Republic reporter was “are you aware of any progress within the community to find funding for the program?”. Our answer to that question was no, despite many well intentioned people volunteering to assist in meeting that goal last summer when the issue came up.
The reason I have been encouraging our community to look for private funding is because of the financial straights not just our county is in, but because our federal government is basically bankrupt. We have seen county funding sources dry up all through this past year which has had a huge negative impact on our counties finances.
We do not know what the future will bring, not in 2012 and certainly not after the election. My job as commissioner is not to just look at where we are today, we must be always looking several years ahead especially in the budget process. It is likely that entire programs will be eliminated at all levels of government and more pressure will be pushed off to the states and through them to the counties to pay for services provided today at the federal level.
If county income continues to decline as expected, we have nothing put aside to replace lost revenues in public health or any other area of service. This is the reality of our county and it is foolish to not address the issues head on and plan for the future.
Should the grant monies be available they will be accepted, the votes needed are committed so this is not about insensitive Republican’s wanting to kill the poor and needy in our community.
Do we wait to see if the federal government will continue to fully fund our women’s health care or be proactive? It is time for our county to return, as best we can, to the ideals of our forefathers which is to care for our own as citizens, civic organizations and churches.
My goal is to improve our counties fiscal picture by way of opening up the opportunities for job creation. This in turn increases home and business ownership and tax revenues to support county governments ability to provide necessary services. This will take time and for now we can as neighbors take up the mantle and care for those in need, to share our blessings with those less fortunate. I believe it is the responsibility of our community to provide for our own. What happens if the funding is cut or eliminated? Will we do without? Who will fill the gap?
In 2011 we commissioners worked hard to bring our budget under control and we continue to work with interested citizens and county employees to make the process better and more transparent.  We are looking at the various positions within the county, clarifying job descriptions and asking for department heads to help define the services they provide and goals to improve upon them.
We are seeking data that will give all of us, from government to private business, a clear picture of our economic strengths and weaknesses for future job growth. We are working with citizens to create a natural resource policy for the county, taking inventory of our infrastructure and researching ways to improve our county roads.
Everything I do is with our economic future as a county in mind and the services we are mandated to deliver to always be improving. My goal is to position our county to be ready to attract new companies and new jobs to Ravalli County by removing as many obstacles to that goal as possible now, rather than wait until we are in a catch up game down the road.
These are just a few of the myriad of issues we work on daily as your county commissioners. I encourage you to call or drop in and visit when you read something that alarms you, there is usually much more to the story than meets the eye. We are always available to share and listen.

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