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County department chiefs argue over budget

"In less than a month, each Kitsap County government department’s fate will be sealed.By then, the County Commissioners will have voted on the 2000 budget, which is much slimmer than any official wants.But in the weeks preceding a final budget decision, department heads are still lobbying for their favorite projects, hoping the commissioners will fund programs that are not in the preliminary budget.Commissioners Tim Botkin, Chris Endresen and Charlotte Garrido got an earful Monday from several of the lobbyists. Sheriff Steve Boyer pointed out that the county has the fewest deputies per capita in the state compared to similar-sized counties. It would take 14 new deputies just to move his department out of last place, Boyer said.Nevertheless, a request for five new deputies and a sergeant – $472,000, including their cars – didn’t make it in the budget. Botkin recommended earlier that voters should be asked to approve a tax increase to pay for more law enforcement officers.Treasurer Sharon Shrader, Assessor Jim Avery and Bruce Freeland, director of the Department of Community Development, lobbied for a $2.5 million, computerized land information and permitting system for their offices to share. Shrader reiterated that their current, 15-year-old system is obsolete and expensive to maintain. The new system has been deferred each of the last three years.Freeland and Public Works Department director Randy Casteel also requested a joint permitting center with a $474,000 price tag. “This is an area in which I think we serve the customer very poorly,” Freeland said. “A customer would not tolerate this (service) from a private business.”That’s because permitting often requires applicants to bounce between three separate bureaucracies – the Health District, Public Works and the Department of Community Development -– for answers and approval. Freeland said there is no system now that tracks a permit’s progress. He hopes the one-stop permit center would improve service by cross-training staff to answer questions and keep applicants from running in circles.All of these programs aren’t in the preliminary $60.4 million recommended budget. But some requested positions are new to the budget, including an additional deputy prosecutor, a legal receptionist, two clerks and a full-time courthouse facilitator.These programs will either increase revenues or reduce expenditures in other areas “to offset the costs of the position,” according to county administrator Malcolm Fleming.Sales tax revenue dedicated by voters to the jail and juvenile detention facility will pay for seven new juvenile detention officers, a juvenile center maintenance worker and four corrections officers for the jail.Given these proposals, the juvenile department would see the largest budget increase – 14 percent above last year – while the sheriff and jail would get 1.9 percent and 1.7 percent bumps, respectively. Most departments will have to reduce spending next year – especially administrative services, which could cut 15.6 percent – and facilities maintenance, a 20 percent cut. Fleming recommends an overall 1.9 percent increase in spending for the county over last year, less than the 3.7 percent increase department heads requested.The county also expects to spend $1.3 million of its $11.7 million reserve fund next year. “Given the uncertainty of Silverdale incorporating, not knowing how long the strong economy will continue, knowing that a serious earthquake or natural disaster could require major expenditures ... (this) appears prudent,” Fleming wrote in a budget report to commissioners."

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