Opinion

DISH FROM THE COMMISH By JOSH BROWN Kitsap keeps busy with homecoming, annexation, tight budget

On behalf of Kitsap County, I would like to thank the crew of the USS John C. Stennis for serving and defending our nation over the past several months while at sea. During that time, more than 7,000 sorties were completed with a success rate of nearly 97 percent. In recognition of the excellent work conducted by the crew, last Friday was declared USS John C. Stennis day by the Kitsap County Board of Commissioners.

We are very proud our community is home to one of the largest naval bases in the world. I have the pleasure of being able to look across Sinclair Inlet to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard from the county seat in Port Orchard. The view of the shipyard is amazing, but even better when the USS John C. Stennis is berthed at its homeport. Welcome home and should Kitsap County government provide any assistance or information, please contact my office at jwbrown@co.kitsap.wa.us or call (360) 337-4667.

Significant annexation finalized

This past week, McCormick Woods officially became a part of the city of Port Orchard. More than 2,500 residents live in this urban growth area and with the annexation, the city of Port Orchard’s population grew by 20 percent. This is the second significant annexation over the past several months affecting Kitsap County. The first was the city of Bremerton’s annexation of the South Kitsap Industrial Area (SKIA) which comprises 3,500 acres of industrial land that surrounds the Port of Bremerton along Highway 3. So what do these annexations mean for Kitsap County and residents of both cities and unincorporated parts of our county? The challenge we face as our cities grow is two-fold.

First, when significant annexations or incorporations occur, the county is responsible to work with the cities to provide the smoothest transition of services possible to area residents. We also are responsible for planning ahead so we can absorb the financial impacts to the rest of the county government. As such, Kitsap County is proactively working with the cities and assessing these revenue impacts and what it means for future service delivery to all county residents. This analysis will be completed by the end of summer 2009.

Although these areas are recently incorporated, Kitsap County will collect the same amount of property taxes for our general fund. This levy remains unchanged regardless of jurisdiction. What we lose in terms of revenue is sales taxes, road fund property tax, gas tax and surface and stormwater assessments. These funds support capital projects and maintenance operations for roads and stormwater facilities, as well as funding for law and justice, planning, parks and health and human service programs.

For example, in unincorporated areas, the county receives 1 percent of sales taxes, but within our cities, we get .15 percent — a .85 percent loss when annexations or incorporations occur. While Kitsap County will no longer be responsible for local services in these annexed areas, we are still required to provide many regional functions such as prosecuting felons, housing inmates at the county jail, running our juvenile detention facility, coroner services and Superior Court. These are in addition to other regional roles we provide such as running elections, supporting the health district and managing the administration of human service programs for all residents regardless of jurisdiction.

The county will always play a significant role as a regional service provider, but as local services and the revenue to support them shift to cities, the county needs to be ready and able to adapt. This will ensure we continue to provide good service to residents of unincorporated Kitsap, while serving the entire county well as a regional government.

Budget call letter released to county departments

The Kitsap County Commissioners released budget direction to all of our county departments this week as part of the process to prepare the 2010 budget. We have forecasted conservative revenue projections due to the unprecedented economic times. We have directed each department and elected office to prepare a budget not to exceed 2009 appropriations.

In order to keep revenues aligned with expenses, the county commissioners will be seeking a freeze to cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for the 2010 budget. Many contracts between the county and our employees are open this year. A COLA freeze will allow us to preserve critical functions. In some cases, the county does not have unilateral authority to implement COLAs. In addition, we may have other employee compensation costs such as health care contributions, step increases or employer retirement contributions that will add to the cost of our workforce. Our clear message to all separately elected officials and department heads is these costs must be absorbed within 2009 budget levels. In essence, increased escalation in the cost of our work force will mean fewer employees.

The Board of County Commissioners is committed to living within our means.

Josh Brown is the Central Kitsap Commissioner.

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