Drug Abuse Resistance Education - commonly known as the DARE program - is about to be snuffed out by Bonner County commissioners eager to reduce the size of government.
DARE’s demise marks the beginning of an attempt by Commissioners Larry Allen and Bud Mueller to cut the county’s expenses by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In a budget workshop Monday, Allen criticized the DARE program as being ineffective, while Sheriff’s Department DARE officers rushed to defend it.
“Do you refute drug use is up?” Allen asked DARE officer Jim Peasha.
“No, but drug use is up for various reasons, not because of DARE,” Peasha answered. He added that drug use still is below its peak in 1983.
While Allen argued that several studies show DARE doesn’t work, Peasha countered that he had 30 recent studies that show it does.
“If we lose the DARE program, what are you going to accomplish?” DARE officer John Black asked the commissioners.
“Lower taxes, maybe a mother or a father can stay home instead of paying more taxes,” answered Mueller.
The county’s contribution to the program is the salaries and benefits of Peasha and Black. Peasha said the county still would be paying those salaries even if the program were cut.
But, “whether there’s money in the sheriff’s budget to pay all positions is not a done deal,” Allen cautioned.
If the county drops DARE, its DARE vehicles and other materials would have to be turned over to the state to be redistributed to the 80-plus other DARE programs in Idaho.
After agreeing to cut DARE from the proposed budget, the commissioners asked the sheriff to go back and lower the budget for the marine division.
Sheriff Chip Roos had asked for a total budget of $169,882 to maintain the marine division. The marine enforcement program is funded in part by boater registration fees.
Last year, Bonner County received $167,520 from the state based on boater registration fees. Part of the money goes to waterways facility improvements, but Commissioner Dale Van Stone said the waterways department hasn’t been spending its share of the money.
Other commissioners want to split the registration money 50-50 between enforcement and facilities. Based on the projected $145,000 in registration fees next year, that leaves about $72,500 for the Sheriff’s Department, an amount the county would match with tax dollars.
Mueller would like to limit the sheriff’s marine deputies to only 900 hours on the water, saying “there’s not enough support, in my opinion, for operations out there.”
Sheriff Chip Roos pointed out that the department is responsible for all searches and rescues. “The work must go on,” he said.
Fuel is a big issue for the marine deputies because of the vast area - 111,399 acres - they patrol. Bonner County has more navigable water than any other county in the state.
County Clerk Marie Scott suggested shifting several thousand dollars from the facilities budget to cover fuel costs for marine deputies, but commissioners still want the budget reduced.
“I can’t over-extend my budget,” Roos said. “If you choose to make the cut, it will be on your shoulders.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: MORE WORKSHOPS Budget workshops are expected to continue through the week, with public hearings to be scheduled later.
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