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Dollars won’t stretch to meet requests

The Board of Island County Commissioners will be tasked in the next few months with assembling a budgetary jigsaw puzzle that includes way too many pieces.

Supplementary departmental requests of more than $1.7 million for 2008 far exceed the approximately $350,000 in county funds available. The budget game often requires picking a door lock with used chewing gum.

The new money was generated primarily by increases in sales and property tax revenues. Part of those funds, however, go to cover unavoidable increases, such as the jump in salaries, wages and benefits, or other items like fuel.

“There are many unavoidable increases that departments are going to have to pay for next year,” said Elaine Marlow, county budget director.

The largest requests were submitted by the sheriff’s office and district court.

Sheriff Mark Brown has asked for three more deputies, two additional corrections deputies and a part-time records clerk to become a full-time position. The request would cost the county at least an extra $500,000 a year, according to Brown.

An increased caseload prompted the district court to request two full-time deputy clerks totaling a combined $96,000. An additional $50,000 was solicited to fund a walkthrough detector similar to the one used at the Law and Justice building in Coupeville.

The bulk of the supplementary requests were for additional staff or increases in the hours of existing employees. The General Services Administration asked for another full-time parks technician and a salary review for emergency management positions.

Similar to the district court, the prosecuting attorney’s office has seen a dramatic increase in the caseload. The department requested a full-time deputy prosecutor to handle misdemeanors and the conversion of a paralegal position from part-time to full-time.

Supplemental requests for 2007 totaled over $1 million, a little over half of which was approved in December by the commissioners.

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