Once again, the voters will be asked to open their wallets for the benefit of Kitsap County as we consider a property tax lid lift.
The 7.5 cents per $1,000 assessed property valuation will be used to ensure that programs offered by the county will continue. As Kitsap officials strive toward an ambitious 15 percent budget reduction over the next two years, the public will definitely see certain decreases in the level of services offered.
How much though will depend on the voters.
“The people demand a certain level of service,” County Administrator Malcolm Fleming said last week. “We basically provide all the services that no one can make any money doing.”
Fleming cited skyrocketing medical benefit costs as “the single biggest factor” for the county’s high expenses. Employee health costs have practically tripled since 1998 and hover around $8 million this year, he explained. The county has struggled to keep up with the expense.
While definite budget cuts are already planned for 2003, optional reductions are in the hands of the public.
All three commissioners have endorsed the property tax lid lift and so do we.
The reason is simple:
Kitsap County residents need to hold onto certain services to maintain the quality of life in our communities. This isn’t always easy and it isn’t always cheap.
While we all might not see the need for another juvenile detention officer, a planner, three deputy prosecutors or several parks maintenance workers now, if we lose them, we will definitely realize our folly in the future.
As our quality of life erodes, we will only have ourselves to blame. Sure we’ll all point our fingers at the county but deep down we’ll know the error was ours.
Even so, Fleming said the county’s 2003 budget is being set to “assume the ballot will not pass.”
We should do our best to prove them wrong.