Letters to the Editor

Voters decide on county’s direction

For years Island County government’s services have been dependent with unstable sales taxes and interest revenue from investments. When the national credit bubble burst, this revenue stream collapsed along with it. To balance the budget the county reduced services to the community to meet the $4.2 million shortfall — cutting over 60 positions and streamlining many functions.

The shortfall will continue since stable funding is not available to support basic public safety services. Subsequent cuts to balance the budget will mean reducing services to levels which are dramatically less than we are used to on our islands. Proposition 1 is on our primary ballot to provide stable funding and preserve the level of services currently provided.

Consider the impact to our community. Unless Proposition 1 passes, there will be fewer deputies patrolling our neighborhoods, “minor” crimes won’t get prosecuted. Public health and support services for young children and seniors will be reduced, impacting our most vulnerable neighbors.

Proposition 1 is required because Washington State law limits property tax increases to 1 percent per year, but allows voters to approve larger increases when conditions require it to sustain essential services. Today’s conditions require it. Other levies which fund roads, hospitals, schools or other special purposes cannot be diverted to fill this revenue shortfall. The lid lift will apply to only a fraction of your total property tax bill — the County Current Expense levy. Currently that levy is 7 percent of your tax bill. The ballot measure increases that levy by $2 million, or about 3 percent of a tax bill. This amount may be increased by 1 percent or the consumer price index for a few years, then the mandated 1 percent levy lid limit returns in 2015.

The outcome of the vote on Proposition 1 will decide which direction our island communities will go: deeper reductions to essential services or stabilized funding to hold the line at the current reduced levels of services. Your vote on Aug. 17 will be critical. Please mark your ballot now and mail it by Tuesday.

Helen Price Johnson

County commissioner

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