County departments looking for budget cuts in 2008

Kitsap County’s budget cutting process took the next step Friday when all county departments were scheduled to submit specific proposals for cutting specific expenditures.

“Each department is trying to come up with a plan that works,” said County Administrator Nancy Buonnano Grennan on Thursday.

“They are all finding it to be very difficult, (and) I am finding it to be very difficult in my own department.”

Next week the administration and budget staff are to examine the proposals in anticipation of budget meetings in mid-Sept., according to Grennan.

Each department was given a target reduction, measured in the salary for each full time employee (FTE).

The cuts add up to a total of 39.4 FTEs, or $2,996,049.

For instance, the sheriff’s department is required to cut five FTEs, which is the largest required reduction. On the other hand, the FTEs from the Parks and Recreation Department. could be saved if $260,000 is raised from another source.

Reductions may be managed with cooperation between departments. For instance, Administrative Services must cut one person, while the commissioners’ office must cut two. By combining the functions of the two departments, which share a physical space, they could increase efficiency and therefore save jobs.

Departments are also encouraged to hire from within. Recently the budget manager resigned and was replaced by an assistant treasurer with the same pay scale. The assistant treasurer was also replaced by another employee in the treasurer’s department, whose job will remain unfilled.

In some cases the cuts are easily accomplished. The assessor’s office was required to cut one person, and simply will not fill a current opening.

“That took care of this year,” said Assessor Jim Avery. “But we don’t know what we will have to do for 2009.”

After all the cuts are implemented, county officials have indicated they will probably seek a property tax increase, but will not do so until they have explored all budget reduction measures.

In the meantime, they may shift financial responsibilities to the public in subtle ways. For instance, closing the Poulsbo District Court and having defendants and attorneys travel to the courthouse in Port Orchard is an option.

Grennan, who previously served as a labor liaison, said local unions have been “incredibly creative and cooperative as we look for ways to save money and save jobs.”

Grennan said the initial budget discussions will precede three regional meetings where the public can voice their opinions about specific budget initiatives. The first meeting is scheduled for Sept. 25 in the commissioners’ chambers in Port Orchard. Subsequent meeting have been tentatively set for Oct. 2 at North Kitsap High School and Oct. 9 at Olympic High School. All meetings will take place from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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