Madore wants closer look at county expenses

New commissioner says he's seeking ways to save money

By Erik Hidle, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: January 7, 2013, 11:18 AM

 

Clark County Commissioner David Madore is going to take a look at the county books.

Madore, on his first official day in office on Wednesday, asked fellow commissioners Tom Mielke and Steve Stuart if he could analyze the county's to-be-payed bills before they reach the "warrants" stage.

The reason, Madore argues, is that the county is missing a critical step in cost control. The county authorizes budgets for departments every two years with the overarching county budget. That budget is re-evaluated quarterly, and changes can be made. Expenditures such as new vehicle parts for county vehicles, office supplies or lawn care materials are all authorized by the county budget.

The "warrants" stage is a statutory obligation that sends to-be-payed bills to the commissioners for a final approval. So while the check hasn't been written, the money has been obligated and laid out in the county budget.

And that has Madore concerned. He wants to see the line items of what is to be spent and where.

"I want to look at the bills before we pay them," Madore said. "When I look at this list, I hope I'll find an item that would save us money. "

'Second look'

Madore says he won't be looking at nickels and dimes, nor is he seeking to scrutinize "low-priority" expenditures. But he is looking for larger expenses that could use a "second look."

Madore floated the idea during a board time discussion, a weekly meeting where the three commissioners talk about upcoming agenda items and other county business. The proposal was first met with some pensive looks from both Mielke and Stuart.

"It seems beyond the scope of authority, and it's a tedious exercise," Stuart said. "It's a matter of expertise, as well."

Stuart said "low priority" means different things to different people. He also pointed out that the commissioners are not in position to determine what parts are needed for a county vehicle, saying, "I would not support us making those decisions."

Still, Stuart said he understood where Madore was coming from.

"Are there spending control mechanisms (we could put in place)?" Stuart asked rhetorically. "While I don't like the line-by-line item method, I am fine with (controls)."

Mielke then nudged Stuart and said, "Curious to see what (Madore is) going to bring back."

"I think he'll be surprised by what we've already done," Mielke said.

Stuart agreed, and asked Madore, "This is just a test, right?"

"It's an experiment," Madore said.

Madore also said part of the reasoning for his interest is simply saving money.

"I want to remove all fees," Madore said, bringing up his campaign platform of removing park fees and reducing permit fees. "To do that we need to save money. This is one of the most painless ways to … find savings."

Madore said he doesn't know what he'll find when he requests the information. He plans to ask the county's accounts payable department for a list of all the bills to be paid that aren't pressing. It's unknown how long that list will be.

"I don't want to hold anything up," Madore said. "I'm looking for anything not due between now and next week."

It's likely Madore will present what he finds next week, or at the Jan. 17 board retreat, where the commissioners will meet all day on work items to be addressed for the coming year.

Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov ; erik.hidle@columbian.com.