Island County elected officials and department heads have until the end of the workday Dec. 3 to identify 25 positions that will be cut from next year’s budget.
The commissioners have to adopt a budget Monday, after struggling to find ways to pare $2 million from the general fund because of declining revenues in a poor economy. The budget forum is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Monday.
While commissioners originally thought 30 positions would have to be cut, it looks like that number is down to 25 thanks to some creative budgeting, further refining and a dip into the reserves.
At a budget hearing Wednesday afternoon, newly sworn-in Commissioner Helen Price Johnson and Commissioner John Dean made it clear that they will support Sheriff Brown’s budget proposal, leaving Commissioner Mac McDowell solely in opposition.
Instead of cutting two deputies — as originally proposed — Brown will delay the purchase of three patrol cars.
“It’s probably not the best financial decision to make because we’re just delaying the pain,” Dean admitted.
Price Johnson told the sheriff that he knows best how to manage his budget.
“I haven’t been on the job long enough to second guess your department,” she said.
McDowell said he would prefer to do the layoffs up front so the budget is sustainable and employees aren’t left wondering if their jobs are safe in the future.
With a full staff next year, Brown said he hopes to reduce overtime, which should help reduce costs significantly.
“I have 43 commissioned personnel and I hope that’s where I can stay,” the sheriff said.
Yet Brown has volunteered to cut a part-time civil clerk in order to help Island County Prosecutor Greg Banks keep all his deputy prosecutors.
Originally slated to lose a deputy prosecutor, Banks found a way to keep the attorney with a little help from his friend. Besides the sheriff’s civil clerk, the prosecutor will cut a support position and will use his share of the new mental health sales tax to help fund a deputy prosecutor.
The planning department was originally slated to lose eight positions, but commissioners decided to use some reserve funding to keep a planner to do important projects next year, including Freeland development regulations and an affordable housing program.
Almost all the planning positions to be cut are currently unfilled.