One of the first things Mulcare did was give his constituents a test whereby he asked each attendee to prioritize Douglas County departments in order of the importance of its operation to them.
“I asked each person attending to rate each county department as high, medium or low in regard to how its operations meet their needs,” Mulcare said.
When he collected and reviewed the questionnaire, he said he was not surprised to see a vast majority of his constituents rated public safety as most important followed closely by public works.
However, it was the department that finished third in the order of importance that surprised Mulcare.
“In third place was general government operations which had to do with overall county services, including communications,” he said.
The meeting was part of Mulcare’s preparations before considering the county budget for 2014. The budget year begins Jan. 1.
Commissioners earlier this year approved a 24 percent increase in property taxes to fund this year’s $90 million county budget. They have pledged publicly not to raise taxes in 2014.
Mulcare said, after compiling the results from residents, county department budgets were “in line” with how his constituents prioritized them.
“I believe Douglas County residents appreciate the fact that we are spending money on departments that they feel are important to them personally,” he said.
Mulcare said residents were pleased with the budget increases in the police, fire and sheriff’s departments as well as public works, which includes increased budgets for roads and transportation.
“The budget for public safety has risen more than 11 percent from 2008 through 2013,” Mulcare said.
In addition to public safety, public works also reflected a budget increase during the same time span.
One county department that failed to receive high marks regarding its impact on the lives of constituents was the judicial system which, however, had shown a budget increase of approximately 10.5 percent from 2008 through 2013, Mulcare said.
The judicial department, he said, covers operations like public defenders and juvenile court programs, which usually don’t impact constituent lives on a daily basis as public safety and public works do. One of the main topics of discussion at Mulcare’s meeting was the location of the county’s new animal shelter. One of those attending the meeting, Carol Valentine, said the animal shelter is in desperate need of a new building.
The Douglas County Animal Control Advisory Board recently voted unanimously to present its budget to county administrator Eric Linton, which included the cost of constructing a new shelter at between $2.75 and $3 million.