Jefferson County commissioners hear comments on 2017 budget

PORT TOWNSEND — The 2017 budget for Jefferson County will be unchanged after a mandatory public hearing and is scheduled to be put to a vote during next week’s County Commissioner meeting.

The three Jefferson County Commissioners met Monday for a public hearing on the 2017 budget, which is set to be nearly $55 million for the year.

The 2017 budget is scheduled to be put to a vote during the commissioners meeting Monday, Dec. 12 which starts at 9 a.m. and will be held in the commissioners chambers in the basement of the Jefferson County Courthouse, 1820 Jefferson St.

Commissioner David Sullivan said there was very little public comment during Monday’s meeting.

“It was pretty straight-forward but it always is this time of year,” Sullivan said.

“We have a collaborative budget process, so many county officials have worked on this all year, so there’s been plenty of time for people to work out their issues.”

Public comment was heard in favor of reinstating the position for one code enforcement officer.

According to Sullivan, during the recent recession, the county eliminated the position and distributed the job of enforcing county codes to a variety of county departments including public works, public health and environmental health.

Sullivan said the hope is that it will be easier to ensure that codes are enforced if one person is dedicating time to it.

Commissioners also heard support for more deputies for the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department.

“That’s something we’ve discussed and there’s good reason to do it,” Sullivan said.

“However with budget constraints that will be a slow process that we’ll work on with the sheriff.”

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department is slated for two one-time budget increases in 2017 — one for $45,000 for jail medical services and another for $65,000 for a new corrections officer.

Currently the 2017 budget totals $54,934,824 and is divided among 51 funds.

The largest, the general fund, is recommended to be $18,578,538, according to a budget overview from County Administrator Phillip Morley.

However, according to Morley’s overview, due to a state law that limits revenue growth from property taxes to 1 percent per year, the county is able to see about 1.6 percent growth annually in its tax base for the past six years.

According to Morley’s overview, that doesn’t keep up with the county’s growing population nor inflation.

To maintain current standards for county services, the county would need to see 3.1 percent growth annually.

“That’s just how county funding is right now,” Sullivan said. “It’s up to the state to change that.”

The full budget and Morley’s overview can be found at www.co.jefferson.wa.us.

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Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Cydney McFarland can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 55052, or at cmcfarland@peninsuladailynews.com.

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