The November general election is less than two weeks away. In Greene County, the three candidates for presiding commissioner say the budget is a key priority.
For Republican Bob Cirtin, the solution is growth.
“It’s all about bringing new business into the area, and helping our existing businesses to be successful because I think if we get economic development right, the revenue and the budget is going to take care of itself. Because that’s going to mean more jobs, more people working, more people paying taxes,” Citrin said.
Democrat Donna Bergen agrees about the importance of bringing in new business, but says it needs to start with better financial management.
“Our problem there might be that we aren’t seen as a financially stable county, and I don’t think people are likely to invest [in] industries and businesses aren’t really going to take us seriously until we get our house in order,” Bergen said.
Bergen says the focus should start with putting people’s tax money on things that taxes pay for like law enforcement, and roads and bridges.
In September, the county avoided what it claimed would have been a $4 million budgetary hit, after the Missouri Legislature did not attempt to override the governor’s veto of a tax exemption bill. That in part led county officials to grant a pay raise for employees for the first time in six years.
Benjamin Brixey, the Libertarian candidate for commissioner, says curbing drug abuse in the region will save the county money.
“The goal would be to end all funding for things like the DEA, I think even the National Guard was here doing drug enforcement, it’s just ridiculous. Its money that shouldn’t be spent,” Brixey said.
Brixey adds that this will also relieve stress on the judicial system, and overcrowding in jails. Bergen and Cirtin walked a more neutral line on the topic.
“We have to have proper control over putting our people waiting for their court hearings and decisions and so forth,” Bergen said.
Critin said, “We just need to make sure that the sheriff and all the different facets of the criminal justice system has the funds they need to protect our neighborhood, to protect our people.”
Brixey contends that law enforcement needs to be cautious about how it uses funds and the types of equipment it operates, touching on one of the many criticisms that has emerged since the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson.
“Demilitarizing the police, we don’t really need all this extensive military equipment,” Brixey said.
All of the candidates encouraged community members to get out and vote. Their chance will come when the polls open on November 4.