Island County Sheriff fights proposed 4.5 percent budget cut

Island County Sheriff Mark Brown is continuing his fight to minimize budget cuts in his office by taking his message to the people.

Brown's letter to the citizens of Island County, released Wednesday afternoon, protests the county commissioners' preliminary decision to reduce the funding to all law and justice agencies by 4.5 percent to fill the $1.2 million hole in the 2010 budget. For the sheriff's office, that would translate to a $188,500 reduction.

"The Board of County Commissioners cut law and justice the deepest while sparing non-mandated functions of government who rely upon our county to fund just a fraction of their budget," Brown wrote.

In a statement to the Whidbey News-Times, Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks also decried the commissioners' apparent decision to cut law-and-justice departments instead of the so-called non-mandated services.

"The board has clearly expressed its preference for using taxes to fund non-governmental functions over those that can only be performed by government," Banks wrote.

Banks and Brown were among the six elected officials who presented the commissioners with a letter demanding that they take certain actions to balance the budget, including cutting all non-mandated services first. That would include parks, WSU extension and Senior Services of Island County.

The commissioners apparently didn't follow the advice.

"I am convinced that our county commissioners have been unable to realize what our citizens and my employees already know; law and justice is the most essential functions of government which is mandated by law and should not be competing for funding with non-mandated entities or organizations," the sheriff wrote.

In addition, the Island County Patrol Deputy Guild also sent an open letter to the commissioners with essentially the same message.

"We know that this is not easy for the non-governmental groups and the holders of the private contracts. The bottom line is we need to get back to the basics and provide the core services that are required by law," wrote Darren Crownover, guild president.

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