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Beach Watchers, 4-H safe

Commissioners restored a paid position that will keep two of the most popular programs in the county running next year.

The 4-H youth program and WSU Extension’s Beach Watcher program both benefit from the position funded for 2005 as the Board of Island County Commissioners approved its list of supplemental budget — the final step before the new budget can be approved.

The supplemental list includes requests from various departments for new employees and equipment that will enhance the services provided. The big winners this year were the assessor’s office and WSU Extension Services. All told, the county will add an additional 2.4 full-time employees.

“The only reason that I feel comfortable in funding these ongoing costs is that our carry forward balance is larger than the amount we approved,” Island County Commissioner Mike Shelton said. “Our reserves have grown at a rate greater than we had approved (last year).”

The commissioners agreed to take on $141,002 in new, ongoing expenses. This includes requested additional funding from the animal control officer and the county’s public defense attorneys.

The county also approved $72,600 in new equipment and one-time expenses.

The county will have to dip into its reserves to cover the costs, as the budget was already facing a deficit. Shelton said that funding some of the expenses is worth it because of the return.

The commissioners granted WSU Extension’s wishes to replace an office staff position that was cut in 2002.

“For a little bit of money that we invest, we get a huge amount of return in volunteer hours,” Shelton said.

It was feared that some programs, such as 4-H or the Beach Watchers, would be cut because no one would be available to coordinate them. The re-creation of this position will ensure those programs remain intact.

Shelton said that revenues were higher this year than expected due to a jump in the county’s portion of the sales tax. But, the positions being added are an attempt to rebuild to the status quo, he said.

“As long as the economy continues to improve, we can expect to see an increase in services,” Shelton said. “I don’t think the growth of the economy in Island County will ever go beyond the status quo.”

The assessor’s office will be able to hire a new appraiser trainee, which will help smooth out the revaluation process.

Amongst the planned one-time expenses are two copiers, a mower and a trailer for Camano Island and a new, $10,000 mixer for the jail.

The commissioners continued a public hearing on the 2005 budget until Monday at 10:35 a.m. They are expected to vote on the proposed budget afterward.

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