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Commissioner hopeful would work for half-pay

A independent candidate for South Kitsap commissioner on Tuesday offered an illustration of the difference between symbolic and substantial by supporting an across-the-board salary cut for county employees, along with a promise to return half of his $105,000 commissioner’s salary — if he’s elected, that is.

“I favor cutting all salaries 10 percent except where there is hardship involved,” said Paul Nuchims. “And if elected I will return 50 percent of my salary to the county treasury.”

Nuchims was speaking at the weekly Eggs and Issues campaign breakfast in Bremerton. Also present were Democratic candidates Charlotte Garrido and Monty Mahan and Republican Tim Matthes.

Nuchims was responding to a question about how he would specifically cut the county’s budget.

The other candidates advocated their own cost-cutting measures. Matthes favors reducing document size, boiling down the essence of county statutes to something less than the 300-page average.

Garrido called for individual departments to participate in strategic planning, using long-range tools to cut costs.

Mahan’s cost-cutting barometer was simple: “I will not cut programs that protects life or public safety,” he said. “All others will need to prove themselves.”

The county is now in the middle of a second consecutive budget cycle during which extreme cuts will be required. Throughout this process the personnel cuts are made on the basis of full-time employees (FTEs), with each department required to cut a certain amount.

An across-the-board cut, such as Nuchims is proposing, would be more complicated according to county officials.

Personnel Director Bert Furuta said 67 percent of county employees belong to a union, which would have the opportunity to negotiate any salary adjustment.

The remaining employees, including the commissioners and department heads, follow proscribed salary guidelines.

Additionally, the idea of a commissioner kicking back a portion of his or her salary to the county or charity is not new. Ten years ago Central Kitsap Commissioner Phil Best attempted to donate his salary, “but the required paperwork to turn back the money was overwhelming,” according to Garrido, who was Best’s colleague on the board at the time.

Nevertheless, County Administrator Nancy Buonanno Grennan said that salary cutbacks “will be on the table” during next month’s budget meetings.

Nuchims, who originally suggested a 10 percent cut in pay, amended the idea to 5 to 10 percent when addressing the topic later in the meeting.

At that point, the panelists were asked what actions they would take as commissioner if their powers were unlimited.

In response, Garrido said she would streamline the budget process.

Mahan said he would remove “dead weight” from the personnel rolls and inject fresh blood.

Matthes suggested an attitude change.

“When someone walks into the county building they need to know they are the employer and anyone working for the county is the employee,” he said. “And I would hope to build the confidence of county employees, so they can work to the best of their abilities.”

The candidates were asked about NASCAR’s failure to build in Kitsap County, and whether it represented a lost opportunity or good riddance.

All leaned toward the latter, but cited poor communication as the culprit.

Mahan said each side could have provided better information to the other. Matthes said the proposal “was never framed properly,” while Garrido said the balance of costs and revenues was never clear.

“I think if NASCAR was willing to pay for the whole project and tell us exactly how many jobs it would bring it would have worked,” Mahan said.

All four candidates are on the Aug. 19 primary ballot, which will be sent to voters in Commissioner District 2.

The top two vote getters will then face off Nov. 4 in a county wide election.

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