Canyon Co. budget passes despite lots of public concern

Canyon Co. budget passes despite lots of public concern »Play Video

CALDWELL, Idaho (KBOI) - Canyon County has $15 million in surplus for 2015's budget. Wednesday night, commissioners heard from residents and county employees on how they wanted it spent at the county's public budget hearing.

It was standing room only during the hearing. Some in the crowd said they wanted the county to give more money back to taxpayers, and others questioned why the sheriff's office isn't being given more money to work with. The crowd was mostly made up of county employees.

"We do appreciate everything you do," Commissioner Kathy Alder said to the county workers. "You're wonderful employees, we want to keep you here, we want to do what we can to make this equitable and make the adjustments we need to moving forward."

Some employees didn't take well to the market rate adjustments in the budget plan. Those are $1.8 million in pay increases for employees that are based on doing extra work or accomplishing goals, and not based on how long someone's been working for the county.

"I just feel that right now it is unfair to reward someone that has been there in position for a shorter period of time than those dedicated employees that, with tenure in certain positions," said Mary Gomez, a county employee.

Also a concern for some was that the proposed budget offered a $5 million break in property taxes, but commissioners said they only planned to give a $2 million break from last year to property taxpayers. Some in the audience urged commissioners to rethink that.

"I got off my tractor and got here as soon as I could," said Caldwell resident Sid Freeman as he addressed the commissioners. "I am working to pay my overhead and that overhead includes my property taxes. Commissioners, you have an opportunity here to prove your worthiness to the taxpayers."

Tom Stafford, who also lives in Caldwell, brought up the controversy over wages for sheriff's deputies.
Sheriff Kieran Donahue says he's not able to keep employees because they're not paid enough. Stafford said he contacted commissioners asking that they pay deputies more. He read what he said was the email Commissioner Steve Rule sent back to him.

"Says 'the problem isn't money, it's his inability to manage people,'" Stafford read. "'He's a poor administrator, crying for more money for his division to cover up dozens of employees leaving and many he has fired because they're sick of his bullying tactics.' Sounds like your bullying tactics," he said to Rule.

Stafford then asked the commissioner for an apology.

"No, I'll stand on my statements," Rule said.

After commissioners heard from the public and employees, they voted to pass the budget as it was proposed.