When our county reaches a population of 300,000 citizens, we will be able to expand our Board of County Commissioners from three to five members without a risky process to create a new home rule charter. What is the urgency? In 2013 our county’s population was 262,388. In 2010 it was 252,264. If this rate of growth holds, we may add two more commissioners in 2018 or 2019.
We won’t need to jeopardize our form of government in an unpredictable process. Our county commissioners need only follow the law. A new charter won’t help protect against lawsuits because in one way or another, our governments owe people the same duties of care no matter how they are organized.
A new charter cannot be cost neutral without sacrificing public services somewhere, unless new commissioners and their staff intend to work for free. Currently county commissioners are paid about $110,000 per year. If that funding does not come from new taxes or revenue, it must come from cuts. Our sheriff’s and prosecutor’s offices are already making do in the face of harsh cuts. It won’t take long for our current crop of leaders to start saying, “The responsible thing to do right now is raise taxes.” They might be right, but that will not be what they sold to the voters.
We don’t need to do a charter. We can get more south county representation through redistricting, and then draw districts with better proportions when we attain 300,000 citizens.