Editorial: County earns a ‘yes’ on Prop 1

In tough economic times we expect local government to cut first and ask for more resources later, and that’s exactly what Island County has done.

Since the Great Recession hit, the county commissioners have cut the general fund by $4.2 million (20 percent) and laid off more than 50 employees, impacting the sheriff’s department, the prosecutor’s office, the health department and virtually every other county function, including animal control and assistance to senior citizens.

Employees who weren’t laid off have either had their wages frozen, spent time on furlough or been required to pay more for their health insurance.

After nearly three years of cutting, the commissioners are now asking taxpayers for financial help in the form of Proposition 1, which is on the Aug. 17 primary ballot that voters received in the mail late last week.

Nobody likes tax increases, particularly when we’re all hurting either through job losses, investment losses or decreasing property values. But as citizens, we have an obligation to support basic government services at the local level. Many Americans are furious at the federal government for its uncontrolled spending, but they should not take out their anger at local government which provides most of the services we actually need.

Proposition 1 asks for a property tax increase of roughly 16 cents per thousand of assessed value when implemented next year. For the typical property owner, that works out to $3 to $4 per month.

Proposition 1 also includes a cost-of-living increase, based on the CPI, for each of the next five years to keep the county from falling further behind. This could be worrisome if inflation takes off, but at present economists can’t agree if deflation or inflation is the greater worry. Regardless, that ends after five years and the maximum increase returns to 1 percent a year.

The commissioners deserve to have earned the public’s trust by all the cutting they have already done. And the county sheriff, a Republican, and prosecutor, a Democrat, agree that our criminal justice system is in peril should Proposition 1 fail.

For the sake of preserving a county government that is functional, but not excessive, vote yes on Proposition 1.

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