Editorial: Don't gut all county services

The Island County Commissioners are under a lot of pressure to eliminate all county services but those dictated by law, such as the criminal justice system and tax assessment and collection. Out the door would be the popular WSU Extension programs, non-mandated health services, support for seniors, and other endeavors that make Island County a better place to live.

After cutting $4 million from last year’s budget and now facing another deficit of more than $1 million, there’s not a lot of places left to cut. Whacking the advisor to the voluntary WSU Extension programs such as Beach Watchers and Water Warriors wouldn’t save much, and the risk is that many thousands of volunteer hours from hundreds of citizens who want to do nothing more than improve their community would be lost. That doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Whenever budgets get tight, in-fighting results. Island County is no exception. Giving extra money to the Public Defender’s office earlier this year came back to bite the commissioners when the Deputies’ Guild was asked to give up some benefits. What, you’re paying more to defend criminals and now want to cut the cops? Not the greatest PR move ever made in tough times.

What is needed is cool heads and a common goal of preserving jobs and services after last year’s drastic cuts. The 2010 budget doesn’t have to be adopted until December. Bring everyone to the table for a fresh start, trim where you can and, if necessary, raid the rainy day fund and consider raising taxes a little bit to get us through this economic crisis.

Voters have shown this year by passing tax increases for transit and libraries that they do want more than just the basics from government, even in tough times. But first you have to earn their trust, and that’s the biggest challenge facing the Island County commissioners in the coming weeks.

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