No public comment on county’s budget

Island County Board of Commissioners unanimously voted to approve a $92.3 million budget and 1 percent increase on a property tax levy for 2018, during a public hearing recently.

No one from the community spoke about either the budget or the tax levies during the public comment portions of the meeting, and the commissioners commented that none of them had received input by email either.

“I think the lack of comment is reflective of the lack of controversy,” said Commissioner Rick Hannold.

Significant new expenditures for next year include $425,000 to design a new Camano annex facility and $6 million for a planned road to connect Houston and Race roads.

The sheriff correction division received $84,950 for inmate medications, window replacement, new mattresses, a new bench for the recreational area and an additional control room operator at the jail.

The county’s current expense property tax levy over last year will total $82,977.56, not including revenue from taxes on new construction.

The commissioners decided not to increase the county road or conservation futures levies.

During the meeting, Commissioner Helen Price Johnson said she had been in favor of an increase to the conservation futures levy but compromised with the other commissioners to agree not to.

“If ever there was a fund that identified the different thought processes of the commissioners, this is it,” said Commissioner Jill Johnson at the hearing.

The conservation futures program allows the county to purchase property with the intention of preserving threatened areas of open space, timber lands, wetlands, habitat areas, culturally significant sites and farmlands.

Hannold said he believes the program has “outgrown its usefulness” and will possibly need to be reassessed in the future.

Johnson said the commissioners agreed to limit taxation to avoid adding to the potential burden created by state taxes in 2017.

Budget Director Elaine Marlow called the county’s budget “status quo,” because it included few changes from previous years.

The budget can be found on the General Services Administration page on the county’s website.

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