Janet St. Clair

Budget season has begun for Island County. Separately elected officials and department heads are preparing their 2020 budgets, seeking the optimum performance for the work they oversee.

Our budget manager and county treasurer provide ongoing financial updates and we are looking toward the future with cautious optimism.

Like budgets for all of us, the county budget is a balancing act of money coming in and expenses to be paid. In September, I will be hosting a Town Hall to talk about the county’s budget process, revenue and expenses. I invite the public to participate in the conversation about priorities and choices your Island County Board of County Commissioners makes annually.

Here are a few facts about our budget. Let’s talk about revenue first.

Island County has one of the lowest property tax rates (per assessed fair market value) in the state. According to the Washington State Department of Revenue, the percentage charged in Island County is .70% of the assessed property value ($7 per $1,000). Surrounding counties range from .89% in Skagit to .94% in Snohomish County.

Our combined sales tax is .087%, which is comparable to surrounding counties. Unfortunately, the lack of “big box” stores or major malls means that many residents leave Island County to spend their tax dollars in surrounding areas.

Island County government supplements our budget with grants and other revenues for private, state and federal sources. The majority of those grants are for specific dedicated projects or services.

Expenses cover both county departments, departments led by separately elected officials, capital projects and ongoing operations.

Have your eyes glazed over yet? My goal will be to share as much information as possible, invite questions and talk about the mandates and priorities of government in balancing our budget.

The Board of County Commissioners has updated the Island County mission statement and set the priorities for 2020. Our mission is to provide quality public services for the well-being of Island County communities through an efficient and effective use of county resources.

As we move through this process, we have discussed goals include the following:

  • Increase the public benefit of quality service delivery through enhanced customer service and through recruitment and retention of high quality employees.
  • Invest in programs and services that ensure a safe, healthy and environmentally responsible community, demonstrating interdepartmental collaboration and programming.
  • Enhance citizen access through stronger internal efficiencies, consistent branding, improved document management and streamlining of processes.

I hope Camano residents will join me for that discussion at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 12, in the blue Island County Multipurpose Center at 141 East Camano Drive on Camano Island.

Janet St. Clair represents District 3, which includes Camano Island, on the Island County Board of Commissioners. Contact her at district3@co.island.wa.us or 360-679-7354.

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