Images of Kitsap County
Public Communications (MS-11)
614 Division Street, Port Orchard, WA
Phone: 360.337.4598
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: October 9, 2006
Contact: PJ Callahan
Phone: (360) 337-4481
No. 06-82

County Officials to Tighten Belts to Secure Financial Viability

PORT ORCHARD, WAŚIn a meeting earlier today, the Board of County Commissioners urged Kitsap County elected and appointed officials to work together to help ensure the future financial viability of the county. In a brief presentation, Ben Holland, Director of Administrative Services, outlined the short- and long-term financial challenges facing the county.

"While revenue collected from property taxes on existing homes can only increase 1% each year, cost of living increases and inflation are rising at 3 to 4% each year," said Holland. "Every year we continue at the same level of operations, the more we are dipping into our reserves to pay our bills. In short, the savings account is running dry."

Based on the 2006 Kitsap County Customer Satisfaction Survey, Holland reported that most citizens are satisfied with the overall level and quality of services they receive from the county. However, the challenge is how to sustain those services when their costs are increasing at a faster rate than the revenues that support them. Holland provided evidence that General Fund reserves could approach zero by the end of 2008, raising concerns about financial sustainability in the event of an emergency, such as a major earthquake. The General Fund is critical to county government because it supports all elected functions and all government functions that need subsidies from tax revenues, which is pretty much everything outside public works. Road operations and construction funds are also feeling the pinch and are looking for ways to cut expenses.

The bottom line is that Kitsap County needs to reduce expenses, generate more revenue or both. Other counties and cities throughout
Washington State are in similar circumstances following voter approval of I-747. Short-term solutions Kitsap County will enact to buy time and slow down the diminishing General Fund include a hiring chill and clamp down on non-essential spending. The county will also look to its elected and appointed officials to help formulate long-term strategies to address future budget challenges.

After hearing the presentation, there were few questions from the attendees except for clarification regarding the hiring chill, which will not impact recruitments currently in process. All three county commissioners offered their support for the proposal. After recently returning from a Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC) meeting, the commissioners were well aware that Kitsap County is not in this alone.

"We heard from several counties at WSAC that can't make their payroll," said Commissioner Jan Angel. "It's a statewide issue, and it's time for us to take action."

Commissioner Chris Endresen concurred: "We've been fortunate to stave off this situation as long as we have. Some counties have diverted road funds to help bridge the gap, and they have now lost their ability to compete for grants to fund roads. We've got a structural problem with how county government is financed, so we need to find new ways to keep up with the cost of living and growth."

Commissioner Patty Lent spoke about the importance of public education in helping citizens understand the realities of the situation. "We started an education process this year by giving presentations to community groups about how property taxes are generated, how they are spent and what percentage of your property taxes goes to the county. This coming year, we need to broaden that message so every citizen understands how property taxes work."

Cris Gears, County Administrator, remains optimistic that the group of elected and appointment officials will work together to address the financial challenges the county is facing. "While this is a balancing act, we are working on a collaborative strategy and a realistic plan for moving forward," he said.
 


To contact the Kitsap County Public Information Office, 
call PJ Callahan at 360-337-4481 or email: pjramos@co.kitsap.wa.us

Last Updated:  May 27, 2014