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25 more Island County jobs on the block

Another 25 full-time and part-time employees of Island County government will lose their jobs under a draft budget with $2 million of cuts.

Budget Director Elaine Marlow made the announcement at the Monday morning commissioners meeting. The public hearing on the budget was set for Oct. 4, which is a couple of months earlier than usual.

“In a nutshell, it’s 25 positions, six through attrition, and a drastic reduction in service to the community,” she said.

More than 60 full-time and part-time county positions have been cut in previous rounds of budget chopping.

In a small piece of good news, Marlow said she caught a small accounting error and that the county has $37,000 more than previously thought. That means the commissioners have a total of $98,000 they can use to restore funding to priority programs after receiving public input.

The bad news, however, is that even more cuts could be ahead unless the county can negotiate contracts with the unions that resolve medical insurance costs.

Commissioner Helen Price Johnson pointed out that Sheriff Mark Brown turned down her offer to transfer $110,000 from the animal control budget to his department in order to save a deputy. He sent the commissioners an email explaining that his deputies couldn’t do an adequate job of dealing with animal control issues.

Instead, Brown made a counter proposal that the commissioners instead completely cut funding to senior services and WSU Extension.

The commissioners said that didn’t make sense. Commissioner John Dean said he prioritizes services to people above animals.

“Saving animal control and throwing seniors overboard is not my value system,” he said.

Prosecutor Greg Banks made the argument last week that animal control was less important than things like flu shots for the elderly and law enforcement. He said lower priority functions simply shouldn’t be funded in the current budget emergency.

Likewise, Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said she understood that the level of services would be diminished significantly if deputies handled animal control. It would be just one of many services that would diminish under the current budget. It’s a matter of setting priorities, and she felt a deputy was more important than animal control.

During a tense exchange with commissioners, Brown tried to argue his point about cutting non-mandated services like senior services ahead of animal control. In his letter to the commissioners, he opined that cutting funding to senior services and the extension service wouldn’t really mean less money for them because he feels the community would donate more to the agencies in the wake of governmental cuts.

While Marlow said six positions would be lost through attrition, the amount of attrition may be even higher. Undersheriff Kelly Mauck said in an interview last week that deputies are bailing out of the department ahead of budget cuts and layoffs. Under the draft budget, the department will lose six deputies and three corrections deputies.

Ahead of that, Mauck said two deputies have found jobs in neighboring counties. Sgt. Russ Lindner retired early this year, partly because of the budget problems. Another deputy has been accepted by the Secret Service. One deputy is on administrative leave after being charged on suspicion of DUI and he could lose his job. Another deputy took a voluntary layoff.

“There is a reason these people are leaving,” he said. “I know for a fact they had no intention of working anywhere else.”

Community Events, April 2014

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