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No patrol deputies lost
Thanks to the Island County Patrol Deputy Guild for sharing thoughts and helping us through this difficult time, and thanks for putting yourselves out on the line for all of us who live on the islands.
I don’t need to tell you that the continuing decline of Island County revenue due to the global economy is a huge challenge after we all cut $4 million from budgets in 2009, and now we must face an additional projected shortfall of $1.2 million in 2010.
The loss of that first $4 million severely disabled all county departments and programs, with law and justice appropriately taking the smallest hits.
During a Tuesday, Nov. 17, workshop, the Board of County Commissioners suggested 4 percent and 4.5 percent cuts in all county departments in 2010, except those that have already been severely cut, such as the human resources department, now staffed only by a full-time director and part time office assistant. Other departments, such as the budget director and coroner, are in the same boat. Cutting any more means shutting them down completely.
Commissioners reluctantly suggested even bigger cuts of 10 percent in social programs such as Senior Services, rather than shut them down completely as you and others request, because commissioners feel it is essential to protect the safety net they provide to vulnerable, older adults who live at home alone, for example. Cutting these life-line social programs altogether, thereby potentially losing leverage for state and federal funding for senior programs, would be inhumane, as well as put additional strain on sheriff deputies.
Other social programs, such as mental health, receive only a small portion of the current expense fund and are, instead, funded by a one-tenth of one percent sales tax, which cannot be diverted to other uses.
Meanwhile, the Board of County Commissioners will likely dip into the county’s fund balance to offset $200,000 of the shortfall during this financial emergency, the board will divert road funds to the sheriff’s office for traffic safety, and commissioners will increase tax levies by the allowed 1 percent to help ease the need to dismantle government.
Looking back at what will soon be a total of $5.2 million worth of cuts over two years, the county has protected public safety and law enforcement, which, to this point, was cut the least. A 4.5 percent cut in the sheriff’s department need not mean any erosion of islanders’ safety and deputies’ current response times, and we have full confidence Sheriff Brown will find a way to avoid layoffs of patrol deputies, helping to hold his department and this county together as we go through these difficult times together. I understand Sheriff Brown has already come up with a plan to assure no patrol deputies are lost.
Please know we take your job and its dangers very seriously and vow to work with Sheriff Brown to assure your ongoing safety.
Island County Commissioner