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Time to spare law and justice
I am a retired county-government, budget analyst. I worked in another state and for a much larger county but the counties provide the same services.
I read the budget on the Island County website. Most of the expenses in the General Fund (the one in trouble) are for law and justice departments (58 percent). The largest budgets in this group include: the sheriff, jail, juvenile detention, prosecuting attorney, public defense and the courts. Most of the expenses are for salary and between 2007 and 2010, 12 positions have been cut in law and justice, including 5.4 positions in the sheriff’s department.
Some other big departments include assessor, auditor, treasurer and facilities management. All of these departments have reduced staff in the last few years.
Most of the funding for these programs comes from property taxes. In 2007, the county used $3 million in fund balance to cover the gap between revenue and expense. Fund balance is like a savings account. To pay for ongoing costs for services, the county withdrew from the “savings account.” This only works for so long as we all understand from our personal budgets.
Revenue continues to decline. The county must raise taxes or cut services. The commissioners can cut parks and WSU extension services and the budget will not be balanced.
To balance the budget the commissioners must cut where the money is and law and justice is where the money is. Remember, law and justice departments make up 58 percent of the budget expenditures. Assessor, auditor and treasurer departments provide legally mandated services.
I did not consult anyone in the county about this. I wanted to decide for myself. I will be voting to raise taxes.