County budget cutters look for answers

Kitsap County officials are continuing the budget-planning process with a series of meetings where representatives from individual departments meet with administrative personnel to discuss specific cuts.

“For many departments, it isn’t easy to find places to cut,” said County Administrator Nancy Buonanno Grennan. “But the opportunity to examine all county services becomes an opportunity for us to do things in a different way.”

As of Thursday, the team — which includes Grennan, Administrative Services Director Ben Holland and other budget staff — had met with the Auditor, Clerk, Coroner, Sheriff and jail, Treasurer, Prosecutor, District Court, personnel, Public Works and WSU extension.

Departments still to meet include Human Services, Superior Court, Juvenile Court, Technology Initiatives, Administrative Services and Community Development.

“It’s a tough time for county government,” said Treasurer Barbara Stephenson. “We are facing a lot of things that we haven’t faced over the last few years. And it’s not going away.”

This year the county needs to cut $4 million from the general fund, with an expectation of a $2 million annual cut for at least two years. This year's reduction translates to a reduction of 39 full-time employees (FTEs).

The departments were each given a quota to cut, with the specifics discussed in the current series of meetings.

While all departments seek to protect their own budgets and services, their response differs. The Treasurer’s Office changed the grade of one position and declined to fill another opening.

Meanwhile, DCD is examining the possibility of becoming its own profit center, so it it is least self-supporting. And the Auditor’s Office is also seeking alternative solutions to meet its quota.

“We have four different departments in the Auditor’s Office,” said Chief Deputy Auditor Walt Washington. “To reduce the personnel in any of these departments will drastically decrease service levels.”

Like DCD, the Auditor is investigating ways to generate revenue instead of cutting personnel. “We’ve identified two employees that can be cut along with some alternative revenue streams,” Washington said.

The budget process has many aspects. Departments are due to meet with the commissioners this week, along with the first of three public meetings.

South Kitsap Commissioner Jan Angel hopes the meetings will be a two-way street, where the government explains how county financing works and the public provides suggestions about saving resources.

“After these presentations, I hope people understand where the revenue comes from, where it goes and what we can spend it on,” she said. “We only get 10 percent of property tax revenue, but there are some people who think we get it all. I expct we will be able to clarify any questions that people have.”

The meetings will be held Sept. 25 in the Board of Commissioner’s Chambers, Port Orchard; on Oct. 2 at North Kitsap High School and on Oct. 11 at Olympic High School.

All meetings begin at 7 p.m. and are scheduled to run to 9 p.m.

For more information call (360) 337-7146.

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