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Kitsap budget goals within reach?

Kitsap County’s budget-cutting process is moving into the home stretch, with all but two departments so far submitting their proposals to the county commissioners.

“The departments have worked hard to meet the parameters we have set up for cutting the budget,” said Administrative Services Director Ben Holland. “They are following the formulas we’ve established.”

Since last spring, the county has hammered the message that it must cut about $4 million from the general fund budget. This translates to cuts of full-time employees (FTE) or the equivalent in new revenue generation. For instance, the county may find $500,000 in new revenue and only need to cut $3.5 million.

Holland said he is “cautiously optimistic” the county will meet these goals.

Since August, the commissioners have held a series of meetings with each department, discussing individual budget cutting goals and hearing proposals for fund generation. During this time, the Department of Community Development has announced its intention to become an “enterprise fund” and not rely on general fund revenues for much of its operation.

And some departments, like the Treasurer’s Office, have reported they can meet the required reduction through attrition.

The remaining offices still scheduled for the process are the Administrative Services Department and the Commissioners Office itself.

County Spokesman Clarence Moriwaki said the commissioners’ evaluation of their own office will be no easier or more difficult than any other meeting.

“This is not an academic exercise,” he said. “Every one of these ‘FTEs’ represents a person who makes a living and has a family. It doesn’t reflect their performance or the quality of their work. These are tough decisions all around, but businesses go through this all the time.”

Once the funds are cut county employees must plan for a similar process next year. “This will be an annual challenge,” said County Administrator Nancy Buonanno Grennan.

After 2008 the county hopes to put a tax increase to the voters to pay for services. As for the levy lift, Holland said “we haven’t even begun to discuss that yet.”

While most of the budget meetings are open to the public, the upcoming meetings are expected to generate a larger interest as the actual budget cutting decisions are made.

Discussion and approval of all cuts are scheduled for the regular commissioners meeting at 7 p.m. on Dec. 3 in the commissioners’ chambers in Port Orchard.

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