County budget, property tax increases passed

Island County Monday passed its $110-million budget and increased its three property tax levies by 1 percent over last year.

The property tax increases allow the county to collect a total of 1 percent more than it did last year. Commissioners were expected not to raise the county conservation futures levy, which provides funding to protect open space and agricultural operations. However, Commissioner Janet St. Clair said she changed her mind after speaking to stakeholders about the importance of the fund in protecting the environment.

The 1 percent over last year increase would collect approximately $7,350 more. Commissioner Helen Price Johnson had already been in favor of the increase.

“These funds are critical for a lot of resources in Island County,” Price Johnson said at Monday’s special session meeting.

The board hadn’t raised the conservation futures levy rate the past two years.

Commissioner Jill Johnson voted against the increase, citing her concerns that increased capacity would lead to more land purchases, which in turn would increase costs of maintenance.

County road and current expense property taxes will add approximately $89,592 and $86,238 to the respective funds.

The budget increased spending on employee salaries and wages by approximately 4 percent, which included a 2 percent cost of living adjustment for many of the employees. The county also budgeted to add more than four full-time equivalent employees.

There is $12.7 million set aside for new construction, with the anticipated completion of a Camano annex building and a crisis stabilization and detox facility in Oak Harbor. The Camano project is being paid by debt service, paid off over five years with real estate excise taxes, and the Oak Harbor building has dedicated state funding.

More than $10 million is allocated toward road maintenance and improvement and $6.5 million toward solid waste operations.

Approximately 36 percent of expenditures from the county’s current expense fund go toward public safety, which means the sheriff’s department and animal control.

The 2020 budget passed unanimously.

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