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Sheriff adds officer in newly approved Island County budget

Sheriff Mark Brown has to look for a new corrections officer who would be willing to work for one year.

The Board of Island County Commissioners approved a $67 million budget after a public hearing Monday night. That approval included funding for the single position, but Brown said it could be difficult to find someone willing to go through the academy before starting his work at the jail for a position that will last a single year.

“I just don’t know how practical it will be,” Brown said in an interview after the public hearing. He had originally submitted a budget request asking to fund three corrections officers and 10 deputies; however, that number got pared down to the one corrections officer.

Commissioner Angie Homola said in a Tuesday morning interview, that funding for the corrections officer provides flexibility should the county ask the voters to approve either a sales tax or a property tax initiative sometime in the future.

She doesn’t want to allocate dollars from the general fund when another funding source would come available. That money could serve other needs in the county’s general fund.

She wouldn’t say whether a sales tax or property tax proposal would be offered or a timeline as to when that would happen.

The commissioners approved the Island County budget, along with a 1 percent property tax increase to the county’s current expense levy, roads levy and Conservation Futures Fund. They voted 2 to 1 with Commissioners Homola and Helen Price Johnson supporting the budget and tax increases and Commissioner Kelly Emerson voting against the proposals.

Budget director Elaine Marlow described the document as a “status quo” budget.

The commissioners did hash out some issues about current funding.

The Island County museum had originally asked for $15,000. That money had been originally slashed to $5,000, before the commissioners settled on $8,000.

The remaining money will be made up from tourism dollars with the understanding that the Trust Board of Ebey’s Landing will ask for less when 2 percent tourism dollars are awarded, Price Johnson said.

“I want to thank you for really trying to hammer this out,” Island County Museum director Rick Castellano said during the meeting.

The commissioners also approved the hiring of a new planner even though the money the county earns from building fees and land use decisions are budgeted to decline by $69,000.

Price Johnson said the new planner came from a recent performance audit completed by the state, because the department is being restructured and staff reviews of such documents as the comprehensive plan and shoreline master plan.

Emerson voted against all of the proposals. She said she sees revenue problems in the budget and the commissioners needs to stop raising fees and taxes. The county will have a revenue problem if it keeps pushing families, businesses and investors off the island.

Homola took time to defend the recently instituted Clean Water Utility, which provided money for a hydrogeologist.

While the commissioners approved a balanced budget Monday night, Marlow warned that given current trends it will be difficult to approve a balanced budget by 2016.

 

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