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On October 14 I will complete nine months of service as your District 1 Commissioner. Good-hearted citizens continue to ask if I’m surviving, what’s involved and most importantly, if I like being commissioner. I’ll attempt to answer some of the questions that are looming large in the minds of taxpayers and citizens of Canyon County.

First, as Commissioner, I am enjoying some of the most satisfying days of my life outside of raising my family. It has been challenging but rewarding, exhausting yet inspiring and yes, I love it. I love the limitless opportunities to learn and the relentless call to personal and professional growth.

THE BUDGET

As Commissioner-Elect, I presented a proposal in 2018 to limit expenses to match revenues from new construction property taxes and other non-property tax income. The goal was to have growth pay for itself. That proposal became a reality this year when commissioners approved the budget. Because the County did not take foregone taxes or the 3% increase in property taxes allowed by statute, property owners should see the levy rate drop by approximately 11%. I consider that as a substantial win for taxpayers.

THE BOND AND A FACILITY

Since the overwhelming defeat of the $187M bond, my position has been that everything is back on the table including site, funding sources and dollar amount. During the final budget hearing Chairman White directed staff to include a line item in the budget to begin funding a new facility. Commissioners are evaluating all revenue sources which would be available to build a facility. The jail pods (POD 6) should help alleviate jail overcrowding while we work toward a long-term solution but POD 6, like any frontrunner project, has been full of challenges, change orders, cost overruns and delays. The PODS are tentatively scheduled to be in Canyon County around the first of November. Stay tuned.

SALARIES, COMPENSATION

I would like to explain my recent vote on the compensation plan (salaries, pay ranges and additional pay) which makes up 70% of the County’s budget. For the record, I support fair compensation in a competitive marketplace. Salary information for 800 employees was presented to the Board two days before the commission voted. Commissioners appreciate and rely on recommendations from many people which in turn allows them to make informed decisions. Regarding salaries, it is the Board’s job to evaluate and approve the salaries of all county employees. By law, the Board may not delegate its statutory authority. Because the questions I asked went unanswered, I voted no. Next year I hope the information is presented with enough lead time to fairly evaluate the information and clarify questions.

GOING FORWARD

I will continue to question the balance between salaries and services when we have not met the need for a new jail. Citizens want a long-term road map (a Capital Improvement Plan) with a way to pay for it (a Capital Improvement Fund) which I wholeheartedly support. I will continue to work diligently to solve problems while minimizing the tax burden. After all, it’s your money.

If the wheels of progress grind slowly, it’s because no one commissioner has the authority to implement change or act alone. S/he must work together with other board members hoping to persuade at least one commissioner to vote in favor of a proposal. Working together with integrity and honesty continues to be my goal as I represent you.

Until next time, be blessed and may you enjoy all the best Canyon County has to offer.

Leslie Van Beek is a Canyon County commissioner.

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