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READER SOUND-OFF What school of economics did the commissioners attend?
Do you have a view on a local issue you’d like to express? Sound-Off is a public forum. The views are the opinion of the writer, and not necessarily of the newspaper.
Do you not find it interesting that success in balancing a county budget merits rave reviews but, having to dip into reserves to balance a budget is not appropriate for critical comment. The basic premise must be that, during times of economic prosperity, simply doing what you get paid for is meritorious while, in crunch times, trying hard, regardless of outcome, is all that is required. Sorry, commissioners, not in my world.
Central Kitsap Commissioner Josh Brown cites “escalating costs of our workforce” as a primary reason for budget problems. I would agree that approving raises for elected officials and pay increases for union and non-union employees while average taxpayers are faced with personal financial shortfalls would create a budget problem. Certainly it creates a family budget problem for average taxpayers. That the commissioners were able to “negotiate” a reduction in COLA increase to just 50 percent is offered as a budget cut. Commissioners, if you are limited by law (not Initiative 747) to a 1 percent annual increase in revenues, how can you afford 4 percent or higher pay increases? What school of economics did the commissioners attend?
There also is the issue of reduced revenues creating the problem. In fact, the issue is reduced sales tax revenues. Property tax revenues will not decrease. The very same commissioners who approved and adopted planning policies that would drive us out of our cars and onto mass transit are now upset when gas tax revenues are down because of fewer car miles driven. At the same time, the mass transit system they have so heavily favored and pushed on us is in serious financial difficulty even though ridership is up.
The commissioners also have identified the slowdown in the housing market as a contributor to the financial difficulties of the county. They may be right, but not for the reasons they would offer. County policies have continuously increased the cost of homes in the county without adding any value to those homes. It is estimated the average home in Kitsap has a hidden cost of more than $100,000 directly attributed to government regulation. In an effort to increase productivity of the permit processing by the Department of Community Development, the commissioners enacted North Kitsap Commissioner Steve Bauer’s Enterprise Fund for the Permit Division and significantly increased permit costs. In less than seven months, the permit division costs outstripped revenues and layoffs were required. In fact, the fund effort started out at least $1 million in arrears and it appears that deficit grew to about $2 million. Hard to tell with the way we do accounting. It is past time for our county commissioners to recognize that government was created for the sole purpose of completing only those functions that we, as individuals, could not complete ourselves. Public safety, roads and bridges, basic land use, and basic public health are the responsibility of county government. Government cannot afford to fund programs to make everybody happy, nor is that the purpose of government. Now is the time for our commissioners to return to the basics, scrap the programs and costs that are not the delegated responsibility of government, and restore logic and common sense to fiscal management. We can only hope for change.