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County officials prepare for impending budget cuts

The Kitsap County government is gathering information in anticipation of the implementation of budget cuts, meeting last week with elected officials and department heads to discuss where to cut.

County Administrator Nancy Buonanno Grennan and Administrative Services Director Ben Holland met with a succession of representatives of different departments and heard their specific ideas.

“We’ve had a depressing day,” Grennan said. “It is hard for departments to make cuts, and hard for us. We have to help them formulate where to cut, and how to make a decision.”

The cuts are measured in full-time employees (FTEs), with each department required to eliminate a specific number of jobs. And while this year necessitates saving $4 million by cutting 39 FTEs, it will be necessary to cut $2 million each year for the foreseeable future.

Sooner or later, the government will need to go to the voters for more money, probably in the form of a property tax increase.

“Each department has been struggling,” Grennan said. “It takes some serious brainstorming, and many departments are looking for ways to increase revenues. But it is very difficult to come up with $4 million in cuts in the general fund when most of our services are mandated by the state.

“With all the cuts we have to make — $2 million a year — I don’t know how we are going to continue providing services,” she said.

Holland said it was too soon to predict what services will be affected.

“It is the board of commissioners’ authority to determine the specific cuts,” he said. “They have the ability to spend the money any way they want as long as they meet state requirements.”

Holland, along with other county officials, is scheduled to meet the public in three regional meetings during the next few weeks.

“This will allow us to give the public an overview of the financial challenges we are facing, and give them a chance to provide their input,” Grennan said.

The meetings are scheduled for the commissioners’ chambers in Port Orchard on Sept. 25, North Kitsap High School in Poulsbo on Oct. 7 and Olympic High School on Oct. 11. All meetings take place from 7 to 9 p.m.

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