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County prosecutor seeks modest budget increase next year

In times of tight budgets, the Island County prosecutor isn’t asking for much.

“Our budget requests are all maintenance-and-operations requests,” prosecutor Greg Banks said.

“I am committed to maintaining current staffing levels,” he added. “Inflation and previously approved upgrades to our case management and court document access systems account for much of the budget increases. The latter two items are contractual obligations entered into with the board’s approval, so they are ‘must haves.’”

Despite a record caseload for the office, Banks said the office can operate within the 2008 budget’s boundaries, with minor adjustments due to inflation and fuel cost.

Banks is asking for $10,437 for maintenance and repairs in his office that are mostly related to software; as well as $1,000 more for travel and $450 more for fuel. Banks is also expecting that the office needs $920 more for postage, phones and other communication-related items.

The modest increases are likely a result of a good budget year in 2008, when the prosecutor’s office was assigned another deputy prosecutor to handle misdemeanors and some computer-systems upgrades.

But Banks cautioned Island County commissioners that any increases may become an issue in 2009.

“Seven of our attorneys are represented by a bargaining unit, and their wages are fixed by contract,” he wrote in his budget memo. “Their contract expires at the end of 2009. For long range planning, the board should anticipate the possibility of wage and benefit increases in the following contract.”

Banks also hinted in his budget request that his office is bursting out of its space.

“We have no requests for new capital equipment for 2009,” Banks wrote in his budget request for next year. “Although not part of our capital budget request, I would be remiss in my duty to the office if I did not again raise the issue of the lack of adequate office space. Clearly, this is a budget issue for the county as a whole.

“It is a problem that will only get worse over time without action,” he added.

Banks said the prosecutor’s suite is home to 10 attorneys and nine paralegals, and there isn’t much space for the other workers.

“We have converted our internal law library and our copy room into offices. My victim/witness coordinator is located at the end of a hallway within the office, and has no private location to meet with victims of violent crimes. My child-support enforcement specialist has no room to interview mothers and alleged fathers about the details of a child’s conception. My attorneys have no law library for extensive research or preparing trial materials. Our research materials are distributed throughout attorneys’ offices.”

On Oct. 13, Banks will get a chance to make a case for his requests in front of the commissioners.

A special session has been set with County Budget Director Elaine Marlow to review the budget on Wednesday, Oct. 22 and Monday, Oct. 27.

The proposed budget will be presented to county commissioners on Nov. 3, to be followed by a budget hearing on Dec. 1.

Island County has a budget of roughly $73.8 million this year, up from $69 million in 2007.

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