County seeks public input on levy increase

The public will have the opportunity to weigh in on a possible 1 percent increase in Island County’s current expense property tax levy, as well as the overall county budget during a hearing on Dec. 7.

There are no proposed increases on the county road or conservation futures levies.

The increase over the levy amount from last year will total $82,977.56, not including the revenue from taxes on new construction. The money will go to the county’s current expense fund, some of which must be used for veterans assistance, mental health services and development disability services, and the rest can go toward a variety of other programs.

County Budget Director Elaine Marlow called the 2018 county budget, a “status quo” budget.

“We are trying to live within our means and look into the future,” said Marlow.

The county road fund is expected to decrease by over $6 million for the construction of the new connector between Race and Houston roads.

The sheriff’s department’s corrections division received funding to replace windows, install a bench in the recreational area and place new mattresses in the jail.

A request for more bunk beds was denied because the board of county commissioners were concerned this would increase capacity beyond what current staff could potentially manage.

“My take on it is if we don’t have a bed for them, we shouldn’t be taking them into the jail,” said Island County Commissioner Rick Hannold during a budget discussion in late October.

During these discussions, Hannold also did not support allocating money for the bench in the recreation area.

“I’m just saying, they can sit on the ground,” he said to the other commissioners, who disagreed.

The corrections budget additionally included $20,000 of ongoing funds for inmate medications and a one-time expense of $55,000 for an additional control room operator for the jail through the end of next December.

The Department of Emergency Management received $90,000 for operations planning, and planning and community development received $65,000 of ongoing funding to hire an additional administrative assistant.

The full budget will be available online on the county’s website prior to the public hearing held at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 7.

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