County Budget: Citizens Can Expect Less or Pay More

Our latest article on Kitsap County’s budget crunch looks at what citizens can expect in the future. Commissioner Josh Brown and others give the heads up to expect less in the way of services. What would that look like? A longer wait for response to 911 calls? A longer wait to finalize a divorce or adoption? A longer wait to get a building permit?

All three commissioners have said that the county will live within its means in 2008. They have also said a tax hike is not imminent. When I interviewed Brown for the article, he actually said the board had made a “mistake” bringing up the issue of a levy lid lift before the public has had a chance to fully absorb the implications of the county’s budget situation. So for at least a year, said Brown, they will trim back and try to show responsible stewardship of public funds. Then, only if citizens are clamoring for more in the way of services, will they put a property tax increase on the ballot.

Speaking of balancing the budget, one of the county’s ideas is to make some departments “enterprise” entities, i.e. totally self-supporting. I was at the Planning Commission meeting last night, and community development head Larry Keeton gave a preview of what that might look like. The DCD, which now operates rent free in the county administration building with assistance from county legal staff, will have to start paying for these things and more. To do so, said Keeton, they will have to raise fees, and according to their calculations, some building fees could double. Keeton will propose to the commissioners to phase in the fee increases over three years, which was not their original plan. But he said it would too much for the builders to swallow all at once.

If you are a builder, what would that mean for you and your company?

2 thoughts on “County Budget: Citizens Can Expect Less or Pay More

  1. Nice to finally have three county commissioners who support some level of fiscal restraint! Government should not continue to grow while the rest of the economy slows. In case the tax-and-spend bureaucrats haven’t noticed, the private sector that pays the bills is on the brink of recession.

    Establishment of an “enterprise fund” may be popular (Soak The Developers), but it has numerous disadvantages, including high fees for low income homeonwers. It’s not a progressive financial system.

    My question: If DCD becomes an “enterprise fund,” can we expect DCD to start operating like a business? Some folks wait two or three years for permits, which is inefficient and unacceptable. If DCD wasn’t a monopoly and had competition in the marketplace, perhaps it would be OUT OF BUSINESS.

    So, if the commissioners insist on transitioning to an “enterprise fund,” then let’s match the income with the outcome! More money must result in better business practices.

  2. This made me chuckle: “When I interviewed Brown for the article, he actually said the board had made a “mistake” bringing up the issue of a levy lid lift before the public has had a chance to fully absorb the implications of the county’s budget situation.”

    The County has increased expenditures at such a fast rate in the last 3 years, it seems our commissioners are the people who haven’t absorbed the implications of what they’ve done.

    I could see why 2004 involved a large increase, since they were recovering from their panic in 2003.

    But why did 2005, 2006, and 2007 involve such large increases?

    Their mistake was in not figuring out what they really need in additional revenue before putting their show on the road. Why are expenditures going up faster than inflation and population growth? Why are expenditures going up faster than the total personal income of all the people who have to pay the taxes? Answer those questions, see if expenditures can be held to an average annual increase of about 5 percent (the same as the average revenue increases and the average increases in total personal income), then finally sketch out the magnitude of the needed tax increase — assuming one is actually needed.

    Instead, they’ve gone out with a road show that paints a picture of dire needs for what seems to be a big tax increase.

    When our commissioners can finally bring themselves to confess that general fund property tax revenues have been increasing at an average annual rate of 4 percent since 2001, and that total general fund revenues have been increasing at an annual average rate of a little more than 5 percent since 2001, then I’ll be ready to believe they know what they’re talking about — and want to have an honest conversation about the budget.

    Ben Holland is wrong when he says revenues have increased by only 4 percent while expenditures have increased by 6 percent. How many times do I have to say it before someone says, “oh yeah, well let me take a look at those figures for myself”? Am I the only person who can look at the county’s financial statements and see the actual figures?

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