Letters to the Editor

Too many problems to increase taxes

In her Sound Off (Whidbey News-Tmes, May 29) Helen Price Johnson tries to make the case for increasing our property taxes. She says the county is in dire straits and we all need to help. She cites inabilities to make further cuts in such “essential” services as environmental protection, public records, computer technology, courthouse hours and the like. She blames a freak confluence of factors like the economy and reduced construction for the situation and wants us all to pitch in and play “catch-up” for the county at a time when we are all in dire straits.

I wonder several things:

1) Have we really made the necessary cuts in everyone’s favorite programs? How many times have I seen county road crews and contractors doing expensive road resurfacing projects on roads that seem perfectly fine, just because they were scheduled to be done or the county wanted to obtain more matching state funds before some deadline?

2) Price Johnson mentioned Public Health as another critical area that can’t stand any cutbacks. How much money has been wasted so far on the ill-conceived septic inspection fiasco, requiring thousands of frequent, unneeded inspections even on newer systems, and basing the high permit fees on a 90 percent non-compliance rate.

3) How much money is routinely wasted on the failed county complaint-based policy for the building and planning departments, whereby any neighbor who does not like you or something about your property can file a complaint and the county is obliged to spend thousands investigating. Believe me, this happens every day all over the county. These whacko neighbors can basically manipulate the county into legally harassing you, at your expense by the way, for a period of time until the county figures out who is whacko. I actually feel sorry for the county line employees. They admit the policies are flawed, but have no recourse but to do their jobs and enforce these regulations, many of which are supported and guided by the Board of Island County Commissioners.

4) Environmental protection? Want to improve an existing trail to your beach or install some drainage to carry rainwater away from your house? You may be required to obtain up to seven different reviews and permits with multiple visits by the county. Protection is a good thing, but couldn’t some of these processes be streamlined and condensed to save money?

And what about those expensive new log guardrails brought in from out of state? There are so many examples of how county policies and decision-making could be improved and spending reduced without property tax increases. Before our elected officials like Price Johnson ask us to bail them out, let’s ask them to be a little more thrifty instead of spend-thrifty. There is too much wrong with the way this county does business to simply defend existing processes and programs. We need higher-quality leadership steering the boat, not higher taxes.

Alan Ballou

Oak Harbor

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