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Kitsap County will borrow less than expected from reserve fund

Even after a series of aggressive cost-cutting measures, Kitsap County still expects to end the year with less money in its reserve fund — just not as much less as had been feared.

In recent years the county has borrowed from the shrinking reserves in order to compensate for general fund shortfalls. And that trend will continue this year.

But barring any unpleasant surprises, the county will need to draw less from the reserves than had been projected at the beginning of the budget cycle.

“I feel good about this year’s budget situation,” said Susanne Yost, who was the county’s public face during the budget process. “When we saw how sales tax revenues were declining, we reacted quickly enough to make a difference in the rest of the budget.”

Yost said final numbers would not be available until all December invoices were paid, along with the artificially created “13th month” expenses into which miscellaneous expenses are placed.

It’s also impossible to predict unforeseen circumstances, such as extreme weather conditions or other disasters.

However, Yost predicted reserves would hover around the $4 million dollar level, which the commissioners have indicated is the bare minimum the county needs to pay for unforeseen contingencies.

During the preparation of the 2009 budget, the county estimated that it would need to take $1.4 million from reserves. The actual number is just over $1 million, according to Yost.

This does not include inter-agency loans, where the county allows departments to borrow funds for cash flow purposes.

These funds are returned in short order and do not affect the total.

One of these loans to the Department of Community Development for $600,000 was made at the beginning of 2009, which represented half the amount of the projected loan.

Over the next few weeks the commissioners will decide whether to forgive the loan or collect it — an action that will affect the level of reserves.

If they choose to collect the loan, reserves could go up to about $5 million, according to Yost.

After helping with this year’s budget, Yost returned to her job in the Auditor’s Office.

She declined to seek the budget director position on a permanent basis. That job is still open, along with the administrative services director position which was vacated by Shawn Gabriel after a year on the job.

Both jobs have been scaled down and redefined, according to Yost.

Working the budget for public agencies can be frustrating, since less money needs to go a longer way.

“There have been some adversities,” Yost said of the department. “But I’m sure there are people out there who would like a challenge.”

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