Commissioners plan to OK general fund budget

"The Kitsap County Commissioners plan to sign off on the proposed $68 million 2001 general fund budget Monday. The budget, an increase of about $3 million over the 2000 spending plan, calls for hiring the eight additional deputies requested earlier this year by Kitsap County Sheriff Steve Boyer, among other things. That's not the only personnel addition or change expected to occur next year, but it might be the most significant, considering the paucity of deputies was a hot-button issue among county commissioner candidates this fall. That, and the perception that property taxes have skyrocketed lately. While most county officials agreed during budget discussions that the Sheriff's Office required additional staff to keep up with the demands of the community, many weren't sure how to pay for the requested eight deputies. For a time, it looked as if the Sheriff's Office wouldn't receive the eight deputies, which worried deputies' guild members. Hiring an additional eight law-enforcement officers, after all, would mean a $400,000 ongoing expense to the county. That's a pretty penny, considering that other county departments also requested additional personnel, and projected 2001 revenues aren't going to cover the cost of government. With that in mind, the eight deputies are going to be partially funded by the county's fund balance, or savings account. This funding mechanism has made some county officials nervous, especially Commissioner Tim Botkin. But Commissioner Chris Endresen, for one, seems OK with the concept. There was some concern that it wasn't a good idea to hire more deputies by taking funds from a one-time only source, Endresen said. I didn't feel as uncomfortable, because for some time, the fund balance has grown every year, and last year, we poured $2 million into the reserve for a rainy day fund. Over the last four years, revenues have come in higher than projected, and we've spent less than projected. I feel pretty comfortable doing this for those historical reasons.In coming years, Endresen said it could be the commissioners' collective goal to keep better tabs on the state of crime in Kitsap County, so that the Sheriff's Office has enough deputies to keep up with service demands. I think another important thing is to make sure we don't get so far behind the curve next time, she added. The commissioners will consider the budget at their next meeting, scheduled for 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 18, at the county courthouse in Port Orchard. "

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