Wichita Co. leaders learning from last year's budget process

WICHITA FALLS, Tx (RNN Texoma) - In 2017 Wichita County went through one of their most dramatic budget seasons on record. 15 jobs and over $1 million were cut.

Now they're trying to learn from it to help them in 2018.

Wichita County Sheriff David Duke called them the most drastic cuts he's seen in his 36 years working for the county.

They're not expected to do that again, but more tough decisions lie ahead and they're hoping to use what they learned last year to make this year's process smoother.

"It was not a very fun process for anybody that went through that," Precinct 1 Commissioner, Mark Beauchamp said. "It was a very difficult budget."

Bloodbath, aggressive, drastic. Those are just three words that have been used by county employees and staff to describe the 2017 budget process.

"I know Judge Gossom has stated in the past that it was the hardest budget he'd ever been a part of," Commissioner Beauchamp said.

County leaders said they learned a lot from it and that's why the first thing Judge Gossom asked them earlier in April was what they wanted to do differently this year.

"We're trying to give everybody the same message," Judge Gossom said. "We've even proposed the possibility of a nominal pay raise."

Commissioner Beauchamp threw out the idea of commissioners meeting with department heads two on one during the preliminary stage so everyone knew each other's vision and goals.

"The idea is for them to be able to present their budgets, have that discussion, and then have one or two allies on the court when they come and make their presentation in front of the whole court," Judge Gossom said.

"Getting that communication down up front is really key in having these discussions early and understanding what our employees needs, wants, and wishes are," Commissioner Beauchamp said.

The county is taking Commissioner Beuachamps idea in hopes of improving communication, an area they think they might have struggled in last year.

Judge Gossom and Commissioner Beauchamp said there will still be painful discussions and tough decisions to be made, but add they value those employees who might still feel neglected from last year's process.

"Our employees are our number one investment," Commissioner Beauchamp said. "It's important to hear them. It's important to take care of their needs."

Judge Gossom said he wants his employees to understand if nothing is done these next few years, either the checks won't pass or the taxes will go up, adding they can't continue to operate the way they have.

Commissioner Beauchamp thinks one thing they did well last year was look at some of the county's problems and use creative ideas to come up with solutions.

He said that approach will need to continue this year.

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