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County budget faces more woes

Confronting what looks to be an ever-darkening economic horizon, Island County commissioners are scrambling for ways to batten the financial hatches without also stripping the basic services residents have come to expect from local government.

A national recession, plummeting interest rates and a potential loss of revenue in the form of citizen’s Initiative 747 — which seeks to limit property tax increase at one percent — are all factors contributing to a predicted $1 to $1.5 million shortfall in the county’s operating budget for the coming year.

Thorn pointed out that the county’s general fund or operating budget is funded by property tax revenues to the tune of 8 cents on the dollar. Hence the concern about the possible passage of I-747.

With additional uncertainties arising over the future status of the Initiative 695 “backfill fund” — whereby the state has paid 53 cents on the dollar to counties for funding lost to the $30-fixed license tab fee — Commissioner Bill Thorn described the county’s revenue forecasting as “a little dicey right now.”

Come the first of the year, Thorn said that the county will recommence its argument with the legislature regarding the state’s “moral commitment” to continue on with I-695 backfill funding — though, he said, such a commitment can’t be counted on, even at its current rate funding.

Thorn added that, with sales tax revenues having “gone flat,” it could be a “pretty thin Christmas season,” both locally and around the country.

“The only saving grace,” said Thorn, “is that we continue to have substantial new construction in the county,” which increases local property valuations and further generates county revenue.

County commissioners have been engaged in budget workshops since Sept. 10. These meetings entail reviewing project reports as well as receiving

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