Opinion

Brown: Kitsap County commissioners committed to balancing 2009 budget

2008 marked the first time in years the Board of County Commissioners balanced the budget without using reserves. We were able to achieve this accomplishment through a combination of cuts, which included reducing positions and working with our employees to freeze the increase of health care costs to our budget.

While we succeeded in holding the line on expenditures, revenues in the form of sales taxes, permit fees and real estate excise taxes (or REET, which is a tax on the sale or transfer of property) have dropped significantly. Kitsap County continues to boast a low unemployment rate, but local construction — which contributes heavily to sales taxes, permit fees and REET — has slowed dramatically. Combined with higher prices for energy and basic staples such as food, households have less disposable income than in previous years, further reducing local sales tax revenues. The result is that sales taxes in Kitsap County are essentially coming in at 2005 levels, the first real drop in sales taxes from one year to the next in over a decade.

The Board of County Commissioners has taken action to reduce expenditures further in 2008 by imposing a hiring freeze, significantly reducing the number of take-home vehicles available to employees, and will be taking additional steps in the immediate future. The fact that we held the line on expenditures for the 2008 budget means that we are in a far better position to respond to reduced revenues than if we had not balanced the budget.

As we prepare for drafting the 2009 budget, the Board of County Commissioners is committed to working collaboratively during these difficult times. We are committed to delivering another balanced budget for 2009 without using reserves. We are committed to “living within our means” by not seeking any tax increase measures to support the general fund in 2009. However, “living within our means” also means we will be forced to make additional service cuts for 2009, some of which will not be popular.

Our Board is committed to listening to the public as we prioritize our budget, this is part of the reason we formed a Citizen Budget Advisory Committee earlier this year. Only by working together and listening to the community can we meet challenges that lie ahead.

Stand down for veterans and their families

The Kitsap Area Veterans Alliance and the Kitsap County Veterans Advisory Board are sponsoring the Fall 2008 Stand Down scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 1 in the President’s Hall at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

The purpose and establishment of the Veterans Advisory Board is to advise the Board of County Commissioners on the needs, resources available and programs that could assist local indigent veterans and their families. The stand down provides basic assistance for veterans who have served six months active duty and have received an honorable discharge.

Planned services and assistance include: clothing (outerwear, underwear, socks, knit hats); limited meals; shaving gear and other items; haircuts; assistance to enroll in VA health benefits and secure VA claims; employment referrals; limited medical screening; flu shots; financial and housing assistance; and information about several local veteran support organizations.

Please be sure to bring a copy of your DD214 or discharge papers for faster service. Unaccompanied family members should bring DD214 and proof of relationship. If you don’t have a DD214 form, you may apply online at www.archives.gov.

If you rely on bus service, the best options for Kitsap Transit include Route 37 from the Kitsap Mall which stops in front of the Kitsap Fairgrounds Pavilion or Route 13 from Sylvan Way up Warren Avenue (simply get off at Central Valley and Fairgrounds Road intersection. It’s a four-tenths mile walk to the stand down).

Support the 2008 Kitsap AIDS Walk

AIDS Walk Kitsap will be held Sunday, Sept. 21st in downtown Bremerton at the Harborside boardwalk.

This event is a grassroots effort to raise funds to support the Kitsap County HIV AIDS Foundation. There are now more than 200 men, women and children infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS in Kitsap County. Because of the devastating effects of this disease, more than 70 of these persons are living below the poverty level. This foundation supports the lives of people touched by HIV and AIDS in Kitsap County. In addition, funds raised through the walk will be used to educate and provide resources to the community.

You can support the event by making a donation on their Web site at www.AIDSWalkKitsap.org. This site also provides the opportunity for you to register to walk in the event.

If you have questions about the event and want to learn how you may become involved, please call (360) 698-3335.

Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown appears the second Saturday of the month in the CK Reporter.

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