Mr. Middleton, Madame Chair and members of the Newton County Board of Commissioners: I'm sure the known revenue and expense projections have been assembled at a high level already. That said - is there any way to streamline the budget process this year? I realize that tough decisions cannot be rushed, but waiting until the 11th hour to question or fact-find is stress on the process and county employees that can be avoided.
Department heads should have an awareness of financial needs going forward with very few surprises for the budget process. I would expect Mr. Middleton to present a baseline budget with any expected department deficit or surplus to the board. I would expect Madame Chair to lead the board through each line of the proposed budget - facilitating any questions the board may have for Mr. Middleton or the department heads. I would also suggest that Madame Chair impose a deadline for the new budget that is sooner than years past. I would expect the commissioners to have a detailed knowledge of the current budget, projections and points of contention before starting the process - or as close to that scenario as possible. I would also suggest that commissioners do their part to encourage progress without overlooking important decisions.
I suggest all this with very little knowledge of the actual county process, but I know improvement is needed. Expectations and structure going in will be key, no matter the methodology.
I am under no illusion that an agreement will come at every line, but I will say this - a united front when the budget is complete would go a long way in re-establishing some confidence in Newton County government. The county tends to take on the persona of its leaders and how they interact. I see this years budget process as an excellent opportunity to restore some of that confidence.
Stan Edwards Jr.