Thursday, October 26, 2006

What does a commissioner do?

In cleaning out some files, I came across an old document published by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, titled "Who are these people and what do they do?" I thought, considering the discussions elsewhere on the internet and in the area, that I'd post their introduction which gives a sort of "job description" for a commissioner.

"A board of three County Commissioners serves as the general administrative body for 87 of 88 Ohio counties; the exception is Summit County with its charter form of government. County Commissioners are elected to office like other county officials, such as the Sheriff, Engineer and Auditor. However, they are seen as the leaders of county government, and their authority goes a long way toward supporting that viewpoint.

Given specific and limited authority by the state legislature, County Commissioners hold title to all county property, serve as the sole taxing authority for the county and control county purchasing. Most importantly, Ohio's 87 Boards of County Commissioners are the budget and appropriating authority for county government, meaning everyone - every agency, every court, every other elected office holder - depends on County Commissioners for their budgets.

This means that County Commissioners must take a broad view when making public policy and budget decisions. Given their impact on the work of many other elected officials and dfifferent departments, they must be astute in matters of law enforcement, correction facilities, human services, business development and other areas. Given their budget-making authority, they must have a good business sense - matching available revenue to service needs.

County Commissioners also have statutory authority for providing water and sewer services as well as solid waster (trash) disposal. They hold hearings and rule on annexations. And, as noted earlier, County Commissioners are today being given responsibilities, such as making public assistance work, that were once held by the state and federal government."

From further in the document:

"A very small percentage of all revenue that is collected by county government is available to County Commissioners to spend as they please for public purposes. Federal and state mandates dictate how County Commissioners budget the overwhelming portion of county revenues. This makes for some very hard decision making by County Commissioners when it comes to discretionary spending, because public needs almost always outdistance available revenue."

For more information, you can click here and read the County Leadership Handbook published by the National Association of Counties or the County Commissioners Handbook which details all the responsibilities of a commissioner. (Admittedly, you won't want to read the documents in their entirety, but a review of their chapters and scope will give you a good overview.)


Kate said...

Hey - that sounds like a nifty tool to have. Why don't you pass it out to the other two commissioners?

-Sepp said...

WOW! I always thought that Commissioners were simply people who thought they were too big for city council but, not popular enough to get elected mayor.

Maggie said...

Actually, -sepp, this was only the introduction. The booklet is about 10 pages long. The handbook is now online, but my paper copy is a three-ring notebook that is 5" thick!

I can honestly say that a lot of people don't know what the job entails. You'd be surprised how many think that the commissioners, because they're county, have the ability to tell the mayor what to do...or even the other elected county officials.

And, in looking at the current campaign, it's clear that the two candidates didn't do as much reading as they should have about the actual functions of the position.

I also know that when Pete became a commissioner, we had several discussions about the fact that the Board wasn't allowed, under law, to do many of the things he's a limited administrative position - can't make laws and can only do what the ORC says.

I think the biggest problem the board will have next year is this: Unlike a home-rule city council, if the law is silent on an issue, a BCC cannot act. Pete and Tina have both stated their opinion that if the law is silent on an issue, they can do whatever they want (like they did on city council). Should make things interesting around here.

-Sepp said...

"And, in looking at the current campaign, it's clear that the two candidates didn't do as much reading as they should have about the actual functions of the position"

Maggie, thats because they too thought the job was as I described it before! Sad but, painfully true!

Hooda Thunkit (Dave Zawodny) said...

Thanks for posting this Maggie!

It should be a real eye-opener to the current and future Commissioners ;-)

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