Borrowing less isn’t a reason for celebration

It’s a sad commentary on the county’s current financial state when its leaders are able to pat themselves on the back not for actually balancing the budget, but simply for having to rely less than they’d anticipated on emergency reserves.

The Kitsap commissioners had originally approved an $88.4 million general fund budget for 2009, a total that would have required them to borrow $1.4 million from reserves the county keeps on hand for emergencies.

On Monday, the commissioners revised that estimate and congratulated themselves and the rest of the Kitsap bureaucracy for whittling the shortfall down to a paltry $1.2 million.

“I feel good about this year’s budget situation,” said Susanne Yost, the county’s interim budget director. “I think, all in all, departments tightened their belts. They made some tough choices.”

Some, but evidently not quite enough if the county still has to dip into its reserves again.

“I think it’s really a credit to everyone across the organization,” added Commissioner Josh Brown.

Compared to $1.4 million, that may be true. But if the precocious Central Kitsap representative had bothered to stop off in the real world in between college and county government, he’d have discovered that households and businesses rarely consider falling more than a million dollars short of meeting their budget obligations cause for celebration.

Nor, for that matter, does lacking the resolve to make even deeper cuts constitute the sort of emergency the reserve fund was created to protect the county against.

As always, the commissioners characterize the county’s budget problems as a shortage of revenue rather than a surplus of spending.

Yes, they swung the budget axe this year. But the way things are going, they’ll need a bigger one next year.

Or deeper emergency reserves, apparently.

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