Jefferson County commissioners OK $53.5 million budget

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County’s 2013 budget grants a 1 percent raise to six elected officials, keeps commissioners’ pay at 2007 levels and contains cutbacks in parks and the planning department.

The $53,545,839 budget, approved unanimously Monday, includes $16,464,866 in the general fund and $37,080,973 for all other funds.

It sets the auditor, assessor, clerk and treasurer salaries at $71,091 per year and the sheriff’s at $83,965, a slight increase, while the three commissioners earn $63,925.

Prosecuting Attorney Scott Rosekrans earns $126,369, with $74,416 reimbursed by the state, while Superior Court Judge Keith Harper will receive $148,832, with $74,416 plus benefits reimbursed by the state.

District Court Judge Jill Landes’ $141,710 salary is paid solely by Jefferson County.

This year’s budget continues the county’s strategy implemented in 2009 to hold general fund expenditures to the same level despite escalating costs for existing services, according to County Administrator Philip Morley.

“Five years into the great recession, the cumulative effect of the annual cuts we’ve had to take in levels of service are starting to have a very significant impact,” Morley said.

“We are at the point where we are going to see significant reductions in community services.”

The most significant cutbacks are a scaling-back of hours for the Department of Community Development, which will reduce all employee hours to 32 hours per week and close its office Fridays beginning in January, and cuts to parks.

Morley said cuts will be most deeply felt in nonmandated areas such as parks, with the closure of Irondale Park and the cessation of maintenance at H.J. Carroll Park.

“Parks are in a particularly difficult decision,” Morley said.

“They improve the quality of life and they enhance the mental health of citizens, but they are nonmandated, so they will suffer.”

Safe for now is the funding of the Port Townsend Recreation Center and Memorial Field, funding for which was approved by voters in a 2010 sales-tax-increase measure.

Morley has indicated that the county had to “backfill” funds from other programs to keep the facilities open “to honor our commitment to the voters.”

Morley predicts that the county will need to cut an additional $120,000 in each of the next two years, with no cuts required for two years after that.

He does not know where the cuts will be made.

“The mandated services are squeezing the nonmandated services,” Morley said.

“This is not unique. A lot of other communities are facing the same problem.”

Auditor Donna Eldridge said that while it was “admirable” that the commissioners have kept their salaries down, she suggests it is time for them to review their salaries.

“In the counties we compare ourselves to, none of them pay their elected officials more than the commissioners,” she said.

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Jefferson County Reporter Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at charlie.bermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: December 18. 2012 6:12PM
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