Offset for VSO employee would improve good county budget

With its 2019 budget, Ward County is doing something few other local government entities have been able to do – keep a lid on taxes in today’s economic environment.

Ward County taxpayers shouldn’t see an increase in their tax bills following the county commission’s action to trim the proposed 2019 budget Tuesday. While cutting a controversial weather modification program prompted some debate, it is obviously low-hanging fruit when it comes to simple cuts to make – the program isn’t statewide and it seems fair to assert that the jury is still out on its effectiveness.

Another choice is likely to inspire more conversation and concern. The commission eliminated a proposed new position for a second part-time veterans service officer from the budget. The cut saves $65,652. The VSO position has been subject of some debate. Advocates say the second VSO officer is needed to meet increasing demand. Others feel the office hasn’t been functioning well, prompting the apparent need for an additional employee.

Commission Chairman Alan Walter said the commission has received letters of concern from veterans about the office operations, and he wants to see if those concerns lessen in the coming year.

Commissioner Jim Rostad offered a solid idea. He said he can support eliminating the position at this point in the budgeting process, but he would like to find offsetting budget cuts to allow the position to be restored. Commissioner Larry Louser voiced support for the idea.

While credit is due the county commission for its work on the budget, it is uncomfortable to think that the veterans service office should come up short of needed resources.

Hopefully a compromise can be found, other slight cuts made to as to be able to provide the best access to services for our veterans.