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County’s proposed 2012 budget relies on layoffs and hope

The few members of the public to testify Monday  on the proposed 2012 Kitsap County budget criticized plans to cut law and justice budgets and said any further reduction to jail staffing will affect safety.

The Board of County Commissioners took comment on the proposed $78 million general fund 2012 budget which finds its balance largely on cuts to the criminal justice system.

Commissioners remained unapologetic on the issue saying that it is the only way to balance.

Josh Brown, District 3 commissioner, said citizens must understand there is no “status quo going” forward from this point in the recession and that the proposed budget cuts will impact lives.

“We are cutting the entire operation to bare bones,” Brown said.

County budget director Amber D’Amato said that 29 positions countywide will be cut and that 139 positions will see a “partial reduction” in hours if the BOCC approves the budget as proposed.

D’Amato joined the BOCC to congratulate staff and the members of the citizen budget advisory board in  a job well done.

The county continues to put partial blame for the expected decline in 2012 revenue to targeted annexations, which joins state cuts and a continued mantra of “soft” economy for the ever shrinking budget that they say forces the loss of 29 jobs in the 2012 budget.

A total of $2.3 million was cut from the county’s general fund budget requests to match the projected revenue for 2012.

The county’s preliminary 2012 expenses budget is $78,599,002 for a total of 19 departments, reduced by about $1.5 million from the 2011 budget.

With an expected loss of revenue countywide — revenue for 2012 is estimated at $78,648,837 with the 2011 budget revenue at $80,66,300 — cuts had to come from the departments.

D’Amato said the county projects the loss of $650,000 in 2012 sales tax as a result of Port Orchard’s attempt to annex the commercially strong “Bethel Corridor.”

“Cities continue to cherry pick sales tax heavy areas,” Brown said.

D’Amato noted that previous recession year’s budgets were not actually balanced based on the revenues and expenses, but instead were reliant on continued draws from county cash reserves as a subsidy to maintain county staffing levels.

Each of those previous budgets were voted into reality by the BOCC.

The 2012 budget cycle remains on track to have $50,000 to contribute to the county’s reserve, D’Amato said. The budget process and results are more stable now, she said.

What remains similar to past years is that employee costs consume the largest portion of the budget. For example, expenses such as salary, overtime, healthcare and retirement consume 67 percent of the general fund, she said.

Brown said that the current board had inherited the budget practices of predecessors and that the current board works hard to live within the county’s current revenue means.

Charlotte Garrido, District. 2 commissioner and BOCC chair, said that after three rough budgeting years, it was nice to have  staff produce a “solid budget”

Ultimately the proposed 2012 budget’s final balance rests on a revenue scheme to increase local vehicle registration fees by the Kitsap County Auditor’s Office.

Dennis Himan, executive board of the Kitsap County Corrections Guild disagreed with the BOCC on the solidity of the proposed budget. He said that continued cuts wail not be necessary and the loss of two more corrections officers will only create an unsafe situation in the county jail.

Regarding county revenue Himan said, “We find it hard to believe that 2012 will be worse that 2011.”

William Mahn, also a guild member, said that 17 staff members have been cut from jail operations since the beginning of the recession while jail operations continued to grow.

The jail will lose two more under current plans to reach balance.

“Cuts to the jail need to stop,” Mahn said.

Commissioners will hear the public again on the 2012 proposed budget, in the commissioner’s chambers, Dec. 5 at 3 p.m.

 

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