Smaller county revenue jump expected

Although Island County revenue is expected to increase 4 percent in its general fund next year, the jump is 2 percent less than this year.

Total projected revenue for 2008 is just shy of $25 million for the general fund, compared to approximately $24 million this year. The projected increase is about $700,000.

Flattening interest rates and a smaller increase in sales tax revenue are two of the primary factors accounting for the comparatively smaller jump in revenue, said Elaine Marlow, county budget director.

Treasurer Linda Riffe, now in her second term, has been successful in generating significant interest earnings. For 2008 she projects earnings of $2.1 million, down slightly from $2.2 million in 2007. She confirmed that interest rates have affected revenue.

“Interest rates have been volatile for some time and as noted in the news recently, the Federal Reserve Board cut the federal fund rate 0.5 percent or 50 basis points, which was significant,” she said.

As a result of the cut and other factors influencing the market, including the subprime mortgage lending problem, Riffe said they have seen some softening in interest rates offered on investments like certificates of deposits as well as interest on RCW-compliant bond investments.

In addition, according to the economic forecasts Riffe receives, the market anticipates another 0.25 percent or 25 basis point cut in February 2008.

“These factors were taken into consideration when I made my projection for 2008,” she explained. “Balancing the county’s investments and laddering the portfolio has ensured that we are able to offset any major downward trends allowing us to maintain a very healthy return.”

Assessor Dave Mattens said the county’s total assessed value is almost $14.5 billion, up from over $12 billion last year. The figures are actual 2007 numbers for 2008 taxes. New construction has seen a downturn with a total of more than $284 million, a decrease of approximately $44 million.

According to the planning department, permits issued on Whidbey and Camano islands for January through August of this year are greater than this time last year; 1,475 permits compared to 1,395. The difference is in the breakdown. Ninety-five fewer single family residence permits have been issued, but the number of permits for additions and remodels increased from 135 to 153.

The shift in the types of permits issued is directly related to the lagging construction market, with residents choosing instead to give their existing homes a facelift rather than start from scratch.

A marked increase in mechanical permits, which jumped from 105 to 181, can be largely attributed to the power generator buying frenzy caused by last year’s violent winter storms. Generators require a permit.

Currently, supplemental budget requests have been submitted by more than half of the county’s departments and elected officials, Marlow said, although the county commissioners are in the process of poring over each department proposal. The total general fund requests are at $1.4 million, approximately 84 percent of the solicited additional funding in the form of ongoing expenditures, rather than one-time items.

The most substantial requests came from the sheriff’s office and district court.

The commissioners usually finalize the budget for the following year in December after public hearings are held.

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