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County budget jumps 7 percent

Island County’s $73.9 million total estimated budget for 2008 reflects a 7 percent increase in expenditures and a 5 percent increase in revenue.

An allotted 1 percent increase in property taxes plus new construction tax revenues in the county should equate to a General Fund increase of slightly more than $200,000, a 3 percent jump.

Local sales taxes in 2008 are estimated to generate $7.9 million, an 8 percent increase of $600,000 from the previous year.

After more than half a decade of remaining static, environmental health and building fees have been raised for 2008. The need for fee increases will be partially offset by expenditure reductions. Environmental fees will experience an overall increase of approximately 1 percent. Building fees jumped about 9 percent, amounting to a 1.5 percent annual increase over the past six years.

A lack of growth in investment rates led to interest revenue of $2.1 million, which was slightly less than the 2007 forecast.

Real Estate Excise Taxes, dependent on real estate market activity, is currently down 10 percent from 2006. Zero growth is anticipated in REET collections for next year as the housing market continues its stall, said Budget Director Elaine Marlow.

County salaries and benefits increased $1.6 million, or 5.8 percent, from the 2007 adopted budget. Salaries for 2008 came in at $22 million and benefits at $8.5 million.

Law and justice departments were the recipients of more than half of the 2008 supplemental budget requests approved by the Board of Island County Commissioners.

“We have $430,000 approved in additional ongoing expenses,” Marlow said.

The largest allotments of the approximately $300,000 of law and justice funds will go to the Prosecutor’s Office to pay for a full-time misdemeanor attorney at $73,000 and a detective in the sheriff’s office, in addition to increasing the jail’s overtime budget. The sheriff had asked for several additional deputies.

District court also received money for a full-time deputy clerk to handle the increasing caseloads. A juvenile court services coordinator will be bumped up from part-time to full-time and a 5 percent increase was approved for county dog control.

Last year’s supplemental totals were comparable, Marlow said, although the assessor and auditor’s office received more fiscal attention.

The budget director pointed out that the Island County Fair Association was given an additional $15,000 for capital repairs.

The board scrutinizes each request and weighs the wants against the needs, Marlow said.

“The commissioners first look to reducing costs of providing services, before considering fee increases,” she added.

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