Camano Island

Camano Island seen from above Skagit Bay looking south.

Island County will soon have a new leader.

County Commissioners recently passed a $118.5 million budget for 2022 that mostly maintains county services but also includes money to hire a county administrator plus a support staff person — a first for the county. The administrator will oversee county departments and work with appointed officials, while guiding administration to be more efficient and responsive.

Commissioner Janet St. Clair said it really came down to growth and complexity.

Commissioners and staff considered the decision carefully, taking interim steps and consulting with other counties. A search firm has delivered some good candidates and the interviewing process is beginning.

“With increased technology and requirements for good government, having a senior executive focused on the operations of Island County helps us deliver services to the public,” St. Clair said.

Overall, the county's budget is up 18% from the 2021 budget and supports projects, services and programs in the county’s 24 departments with 50 different funds and 458 staff — everything from roads, parks, planning and water quality to mental health, veterans, technology and courts. Revenues come from property and sales taxes and from state and federal funds.

“It’s a recovery budget. We’ve made it through the economic downturn, especially in the area of sales tax; property tax is solid, and we can get back to doing the business that Island County is charged to do,” county Budget Manager Douglas Martin said.

In the depths of the economic downturn during the pandemic, Island County took an austerity approach by controlling expenses. But while other governments laid off staff, Island County didn’t reduce staffing.

Pandemic-related funds have helped the county deal with expenses caused by the pandemic, helping businesses that had to shut down or had extra expenses of buying PPE like gloves, masks and plexiglass, and with dealing with the medical side of the pandemic such as coordinating vaccination work.

Federal pandemic relief funds kept the county from using its own money to deal with the broad, complex and ongoing expenses of dealing with the pandemic, Martin said.

“The good news is that the Island County economic recovery was swifter than anticipated, so we didn’t have to draw down funds,” he said. “It’s been a crazy couple of years.”

Most of the budget will run county governmental services and administration, with around $30 million going to about 20 different departments that provide general county services. The road department gets $22.2 million to maintain all county roads.

The budget includes more than $8 million in American Rescue Plan funds to be spent until 2024 as the county continues keeping pace with pandemic recovery.

County commissioners are taking a strategic approach for how they’re going to spend the money.

Their focus is to provide support to community-based services that don’t have funding sources elsewhere and on increasing the stock of affordable housing, Martin said.

Find meeting recordings, agendas and the budget at islandcountywa.gov/commissioners

Snohomish County

In late September, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers released his $1.25 billion budget proposal for 2022. Now, County Council members will hear department heads discuss their funding requests. 

Somers’ wish list includes investments in public safety, the justice system, community health economic development and environmental stewardship.

“Through this budget and the federal relief and recovery dollars … we have an opportunity to invest in our communities so that we come back stronger than ever before. Amid all these changes, we need to adapt and adjust. That is what my proposed 2022 budget does. It adapts to the present reality and ensures we can adjust for the future we want to create,” Somers stated in his budget address on Sept. 28.

His budget calls for the county to fully fund a body camera program so every deputy is covered, to “ensure transparency for both law enforcement and the public.

He proposes two new detective positions: one to combat a rise in domestic violence and another to pursue crimes against children. He’d like three crime prevention officers to handle lower priority, non-emergency calls that don’t need a deputy with a gun. His plan includes creating a long-term shelter and housing options throughout the county to help with the housing crisis.

Somers proposes an employment support services program to offer one-stop services and a family-friendly approach to help people find jobs. He’d like to invest in expanding broadband efforts across the county as people’s livelihoods become dependent on having reliable access to the internet.

The council will eventually approve its version and send it to Somers to sign, veto or do nothing and let it take effect Jan. 1 unsigned.

The public can send comments to contact.council@snoco.org or attend the following meetings:

  • 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Oct.  25: Public Hearing on Executive’s Budget
  • 10:30 a.m. Nov. 9: Public Hearing on Council Budget

For up-to-date details on budget meetings, see snohomishcountywa.gov 

Contact reporter Peggy Wendel at pwendel@scnews.com or 360-416-2189.

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