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Island County 2014 budget process begins
The Island County budget process has begun with a “wish list” of requests from department heads vying for additional funding.
The preliminary list totals roughly $1.6 million in additional ongoing expenses and roughly $300,000 in one-time expenses, but nothing is final.
The county finds itself in a unique position having maintained large fund balances for the past three years, including 2013.
Revenues outpaced expenditures by $1.6 million in 2011, $1.9 million in 2012 and this year’s projection is for a minimum of $1.5 million.
The reserve fund is at $9 million, which is 41 percent of the county’s $22-million operating budget.
Some fund balance monies have been used to replenish the county’s reserve fund, which was depleted during the budget crisis, but county commissioners may be looking at spending some of those funds in other ways.
In July, the board voted to place a $1.9 million law and justice levy on the November ballot at the urging of Island County Sheriff Mark Brown and Prosecutor Greg Banks. Later that month, Island County Commissioner Jill Johnson noticed the county’s large fund balance and persuaded the law and justice council to reverse their decision.
The levy was officially removed Sept. 2.
Johnson said she was concerned about asking taxpayers for more money when the existing budget might absorb some or all of the county’s supplemental funding.
So it’s no surprise that the sheriff’s department had the largest sum requested for next year’s budget, including $600,000 in ongoing expenses for six additional patrol deputies, $140,000 for two corrections officers, $68,000 for a full-time sheriff’s administrator and $125,000 in one-time expenditures for two new vehicles, obsolete equipment and other items.
For the prosecutor’s office, Banks is requesting a total of $142,000, citing “workload concerns” for an additional prosecutor and increasing the receptionist’s hours from part-time to full-time.
The county’s public health department continues to struggle with stagnant revenues and increasing costs, according to Public Health Director Keith Higman.
As a result, the department is asking for $103,000 to fill its current structural deficit and an additional $40,000 to keep up with 2014 wage and cost increases.
Other large requests include a one-time expense of $35,000 to central services to upgrade the county’s website; a one-time total of $50,000 to review employee compensation and provide island-wide training; $50,000 to the county road fund for four additional part-time workers; and $30,000 to revive juvenile court programs.
The commissioners will spend the next few months hammering out the details of the 2014 budget.
By law, the board must adopt the budget before the end of the year.