Island County Commissioners continue budget work

The Island County Commissioners have reached consensus on a number of key elements of the 2014 county budget.

With a few more budget meetings to go, the commissioners may continue to make small changes to the county’s $22 million operating budget and the supplemental budget requests made by department heads until an Oct. 7 public hearing.

The largest chunk of supplemental funds is being allocated to the Island County Sheriff’s Department, providing for four additional deputies, one additional corrections officer, training, two new vehicles and updated equipment.

The funding was not as much as Sheriff Mark Brown had requested, but he said he was pleased with the $478,000 increase and is “excited to move forward.”

“This is a phased-in process and I call this phase one,” Brown said. “I will certainly try to do everything in my power to ensure what we have will be put to good use.”

Commissioners opted to add three patrol officers; the fourth will replace a current officer who will be promoted to detective to focus on drug enforcement.

“We are meeting some specific community needs with that investment,” Commissioner Jill Johnson said.

She added that she believed the additional corrections officer will contribute to overtime control and “cost savings down the road.”

The county has benefitted from rigorous budget cuts in recent years that have contributed to the county’s current $9 million reserve fund. 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.

Some of that was used to replenish the county’s reserve fund, but commissioners are also looking at spending some of that money in areas that previously experienced deep cuts.

The board decided to remove a $1.9 million law-and-justice levy from the November ballot this month at the suggestion of Johnson, who noticed the county’s large fund balance and persuaded the law-and-justice council to reverse its decision.

The additional funding for the sheriff’s office is a starting point in restoring staffing to 2008 levels, Brown said.

Though a request for a part-time receptionist was removed, the county prosecutor’s office will receive $116,000 for an additional criminal prosecutor.

Commissioners bumped up one-time funding for central services from $160,000 to $405,000 to pay for telephone and computer system upgrades.

The Planning Department was allotted a $75,000 contingency for the requirements related to the Growth Management Act of 1990, landmark legislation that aims to keep rural areas rural and urban areas urban.

The commissioners also removed the $18,000 ongoing expense for a part-time custodian until the next budget cycle.

Island County Public Health’s original $103,000 request was increased to $151,000 because the department has struggled with stagnant revenues and increasing costs, according to Public Health Director Keith Higman.

While cuts were made, overall the budget total increased from $1.6 million to $1.8 million.


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