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20 San Juan County jobs in jeopardy; drop in sales tax revenue blamed for $1M shortfall

Seven day-use parks would be shut down.

A public health nurse and a 4-H coordinator would be let go.

Support for recreation programs — on Orcas Island, in particular — would be cut by $41,000.

And that's just for starters.

San Juan County Administrator Pete Rose on Tuesday unveiled a proposed 2009 budget that, in response to tumbling revenues and rising expenses, slices the equivalent of 20 full-time jobs to cover a projected $1 million drop in revenue next year.

Those jobs targeted for elimination would affect a total of 30 full- or part-time employees, as well as several vacant positions, such as an investigative deputy in the Sheriff's Department.

With 203 full-time employees, and 61 part-time or seasonal positions, the county is the single-largest local employer.

"The amount we had to cut was the equivalent of the combined total budgets of the assessor, auditor and treasurer's departments," Rose said. "The cuts we have had to propose will set the county Health Department and the Parks Department and Juvenile Court back to where they were 15 to 20 years ago."

Under the proposed financial plan, roughly 10 percent of the county workforce will either be laid off or have their hours reduced. Hit hardest would be Public Health, Parks, and Community Development and Planning.

The county's long-standing support of an assortment of community activities, such as Senior Services, recreational youth programs, 4-H and the Agricultural Resources Committee, would also be scaled back significantly.

"Some of the most positive and progressive things we do will take the brunt of the pain," Rose said.

The 2009 budget, he said, has proven the most difficult and "painful" to balance in his 28-year career in public administration.

It's a downhill trajectory in local sales-tax revenue that's largely to blame for the projected $1 million drop in so-called general fund revenue, according to the county's latest revenue figures. Most departments rely on the general fund to cover day-to-day expenses. However, several, like Public Works and the Land Bank, are funded by other sources.

Under Rose's proposal, next year's general fund would total $13.3 million, compared with $14.2 million this year. It would keep $1.5 million in reserve in the general fund as a cushion. County officials and members of Local 1849, which represents about 170 county employees, are currently negotiating a new labor contract.

The County Council will begin wrestling with the budget in a series of meetings that begin Nov. 3. First up will be Parks, Public Health, Community Development and Planning, the County Fair, WSU Extension and the Land Bank. Financial, administrative and the law and justice departments are under the microscope Nov. 5, beginning at 10 a.m.

Cuts in the proposed 2009 budget include:
— 33 percent cut in Parks: $315,000.
— 27 percent cut in administration: $212,000.
— 25 percent cut in Community Development and Planning: $477,000.
— 23 percent cut in Public Health: $332,000.
— 6 percent cut in Sheriff's Office: $146,000.

Increases in the proposed 2009 budget include:
— 5 percent increase in building permit fees.
— 2 percent increase in wages and salaries.

For complete information about the budget proposal, click here.

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