We can't say we blame members of the Otsego County Board for feeling a little squeamish about putting their John Hancocks on the county's 2008 budget.

However, that's much of what they are elected to do _ and do it right.

A motion to adopt the 2008 Otsego County budget was defeated by the Board of Representatives on Monday, but the $115.7 million spending plan will take effect anyway because of a law that stipulates a tentative budget becomes legal if one is not adopted by Dec. 20.

After last year's fiasco of reps adopting a budget that carried a tax levy increase about 10 times what they thought they were approving, sure, why wouldn't they be reluctant to make the same mistake this year?

Except that they've had a whole year to straighten out the mess and even spent $43,000 to hire a budget consultant, because nobody was willing to take the blame for last year's goof. Taxpayers ready to march on board chambers before reps agreed to send out refunds.

Some reps said their vote against budget adoption was a vote of no-confidence in Treasurer Myrna Thayne, who also is the county budget officer.

But we thought the $43,000 to hire Venesky & Co. was supposed to ensure that the treasurer and the board had professionals to help them.

And so even with that, we have nine county reps refusing to vote for adopting the budget.

"It was an awkward situation. You don't want to stop government," said Rep. Marti Stayton, D-Oneonta. "I see it as a vote of no-confidence' in the treasurer's budget."

Awkward, to say the least.

Stayton and Rep. Stephen Fournier, R-Milford, said they couldn't trust a budget that kept the same proposed tax levy after adding and subtracting expenditures during four budget workshops the past few weeks.

Thayne said the answer lies in shifting revenues from one place to another to offset the changes.

OK, if you don't trust Thayne, where's Jack Vanesky?

For $43,000, reps ought to be able to count on him to, if not stand behind the budget, then at least assure them it's more accurate than a year ago.

Of course, he has complained that the treasurer's spending plan should have contained more detail.

In lieu of another consultant, we suggest that the board being seated in January follow Stayton's advice that a supplemental budget officer be appointed.

Next year, perhaps, county reps won't be afraid to adopt a budget.

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