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Kitsap County prosecutor says budget cuts putting public at risk

Sounding a familiar theme, Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge this week reiterated that his office expects to encounter significant difficulties as it adjusts to a smaller staff with no reduction in workload.

As part of the Prosecutor’s Office’s annual report, the statement was posted to the county’s Web site and details what some of the effects will be within the criminal and civil departments.

“We have been instructed to describe the effect of the proposed cuts to our 2010 budget,” Hauge wrote. “The following sets forth what we know will happen. Undoubtedly, there will be negative consequences that we have not foreseen.

“For example,” he said, “we currently have two homicides charged, another under investigation and a two-count vehicular homicide to deal with. Each serious case needs the constant attention of at least two lawyers and one legal assistant. We should be able to handle the pretrial but come trial time it will have a tremendous impact on us.

“We’ve made some big changes in staff,” Hauge said. “along with implementing expedited pleas for mainly property-related Class C felonies.”

In 2008 Hauge was critical of the county commissioners for their reluctance to seek funding resources in order to maintain the level of public safety provided by his office.

At the time, Hauge said he had identified an alternate funding source that would allow the prosecutor to “bill” other county departments and transfer that amount to the general fund where the shortfall exists.

“The county did revisit charging non-general fund agencies and departments for the use of civil division services as part of the 2010 budget,” said Kitsap County Administrator Nancy Buonanno-Grennan. “So a fair portion of what would otherwise have been cuts to the Prosecutor’s Office was avoided through the office’s revenue generation.

“That said, every office and department has experienced significant reductions since 2008,” she said. “Not one office was immune from those and each have had to grabble with the impacts to services. Given our current revenue projections for 2011, it is clear we will likely be faced with cuts again. 

“I don’t know at this time where the cuts will have to come from,” Buonanno-Grennan said. “Our law and justice departments make up over 70 percent of the general fund budget. It is near impossible to balance the budget without making some cuts within those offices. How each elected official makes those cuts will in effect determine the impacts to the citizens.”

‘We need the ability to maintain a level of service, but funding is not keeping up with the demand,” Hauge said.

To view a copy of the memorandum and 2010 budget submission, visit the Kitsap County Web site at www.kitsapgov.com/pros.

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