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Island County budget adoption postponed to allow further public comment

Island County commissioners opted to delay the adoption of the 2014 budget Monday to allow the public to review and comment on the final presentation.

Budget Director Elaine Marlow showed a Powerpoint presentation to the board at Monday’s budget public hearing, and broke down the county’s revenues and expenditures in graphs and pie charts.

The presentation had not yet been posted on the county’s website at the time of the hearing and Commissioner Helen Price Johnson, who made the motion, said she felt the public might like a chance to review the Powerpoint prior to adoption.

Marlow said she would have the presentation posted on the county’s website Tuesday, Oct. 8.

The commissioners set a second public hearing on the budget for 10:15 a.m. Monday, Oct. 14, when they expect to adopt a final budget pending additional public comment.

Overall, the commissioners seemed happy with the budget as it stands.

“I’m pleased with this budget, it meets the goals I set out with,” said Commissioner Helen Price Johnson.

Johnson said the budget met nearly all her budgetary goals except allowing county offices to re-open five days a week.

Currently county offices are close on Fridays.

Still, Johnson said, the 2014 budget “positions us to begin the discussion of a five-day work week.”

Commissioner Kelly Emerson did not comment.

As it stands, the county is poised to adopt at $71 million budget comprising, in part, a $22 million operating budget, $21 million for staff, $10 million in interdepartmental spending, $8.5 million in benefits and $4 in capitol projects.

The good news, Marlow said, is that the deep budget cuts made by the board in 2008-2011 as a result of the economic downturn has lead to a stabilization of the county’s fund balances.

“You’ve been able to increase your fund balances 2011-2013 because of those budget reductions,” Marlow said.

The county was able to built its reserve fund up to $9 million in 2013 as revenues outpaced expenditures by $1.6 million in 2011 $1.9 million in 2012.

“It was difficult to make the cuts in the first place,” Helen Price Johnson said. “But I’m pleased at how we were able to create this budget. It bodes well.”

As a result of the additional funds, the board opted to remove a $1.9 million law-and-justice levy from the November ballot this month at the suggestion of Commissioner Jill Johnson who noticed the county’s large fund balance and persuaded the law-and-justice council to reverse their original decision.

Instead, the board has allowed for the hire of four additional deputies, one correctional officer and two additional squad cars to assist the Sheriff’s department in recovering from the staff cuts that were made in 2008.

“We treated law and justice just like we said we would,” Johnson said. “So people can say, ‘This is a board of county commissioners we can trust.’”

Sheriff Mark Brown, who attended the hearing, thanked the commissioners for prioritizing law and justice needs in the coming budget.

“I want to acknowledge and thank all the commissioners for all their hard work,” Brown said. “I hope this will help us continue to resolve our law and justice issues.”

The bump in law and justice staffing and resources comprises nearly half of the $1.8 supplemental spending budget adopted by the commissioners this year. While the board drew on their healthy fund balance to help fund the supplemental requests, they remained focused on keeping a healthy $10 million fund balance for 2014.

“Really that is the safety net for all of our funds,” Price Johnson said.

Marlow also told commissioners that the county experienced a 4 percent increase in sales tax revenues in 2013. County sales tax has been falling or stagnant since 2009, Marlow said. She added that she projects another 4 percent sales tax increase in 2014, contributing to the overall health of the county’s budget.

For more information on the Island County 2014 budget and to review documents, visit www.islandcounty.net

 

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