The Portage County commissioners have decided to defer final action on the county's budget for 2013 until after the new year, which seems like a wise course of action.
While the commissioners typically finalize a budget for the coming year by year end, the three-member board finds itself unable to reach agreement on a new director of budget and financial management, a position key to the process. The post has been vacant since July, when Audrey Tillis left the county to take a position in Mahoning County. She remains as a consultant on budget issues.
The commissioners' solution is to adopt a "mirror image" budget for 2013 at the end of this year, which will enable the county to meet its immediate obligations while allowing for adjustments in appropriations when the budget is finalized. Until the budget director's position is filled, the commissioners also will see if they can contract out for the budget analysis that the director would do.
The makeup of the board of commissioners will change in January, when Kathleen Chandler takes office, succeeding longtime Commissioner Chris Smeiles, who did not seek re-election. Chandler, a former county commissioner and state legislator, will bring considerable experience to the board. Enabling her to have input on the 2013 budget would be beneficial.
The commissioners' decision may not be an ideal one, but it is a workable solution. Budget hearings with elected officials and department heads, which were scheduled to begin last week, won't occur now until after the new year. With a temporary appropriations measure in place, commissioners also will be able to focus more closely on the budget without staring down a year end deadline.
We trust that the new board will be able to resolve the appointment of a new budget director as well as finalize a budget for the county.