EDITORIAL What to cut debate valuable

Island County voters get to elect the various department heads in Island County, a fact which gives them the freedom to speak up without fear that the commissioners can force them out of office. The wisdom of having elected department heads was proven once again last week when Prosecutor Greg Banks forced public discussion of whether some sacred cows should be cut back financially, rather than basic services such as law enforcement.

Banks recommended that the commissioners “circle the wagons around core services,” which of course makes sense. But prior to his comments, there had been little public awareness of what was being retained in the place of two possible budget cuts, including one deputy sheriff and one deputy prosecutor.

Banks no doubt annoyed some special interests by pointing out continued funding of WSU Extension, the Island District Economic Development Council and the Island County Historical Society Museum, and others, all protected in a budget line called “miscellaneous.”

Should these items be cut in these difficult financial times? Frankly, that’s up to the commissioners. They are all worthy causes, but if voters keep approving tax-cutting initiatives, something will have to give. Banks makes sense when he says core services should be given the resources required to function effectively. What’s left over, if anything, can then be dispersed to other worthwhile endeavors.

The commissioners will be making their final budget decision on Dec. 24. Thanks to our system of electing department heads, voters now know more about the options than they did before. Chances are, an appointed prosecutor would have kept quiet. What the commissioners decide can now be judged fairly by the public, and remembered next time there’s an election.

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