The Town of Point Roberts, Part 3

This is our third installment looking at the Whatcom County budget and the general fund in particular. In Part 1, we looked at tax revenue and focused on the county General Fund, which is the largest category of discretionary funds. In Part 2, we looked at expenditures and found that Law and Justice was the largest consumer of General Fund expenditures. In this installment we look at the budget for the Law and Justice category, which includes the County Sheriff and our two deputies.

In 2019, we will pay $591,863 into the county’s general fund. According to the County Executive's budget, 57%, or $338,775, of that goes to the Law and Justice categories, which includes the functions shown below:

The County Executive's 2019 - 2020 Budget document explains what these functions do and how they’re funded.

Superior Court

From that same document:

"Whatcom County’s four Superior Court judges and three full time court commissioners and three part time court commissioners hear all cases involving: adult felonies, all juvenile offenses, divorce, child custody, support matters, probate, guardianships, adoptions, property claims in excess of $35,000, paternity actions, mental incompetency, and abused or neglected children. Superior Court Administration oversees judicial operations, Drug Court, Family Treatment Court, other specialty court programs, and family law facilitation."

Starting with the Superior Court, here are some of the services it provides that could be relevant to Point Roberts:

About 80% of their funding comes from the General Fund:

And here’s their organizational chart. We show this in order to demonstrate how many people it takes to provide this range of services:

District Court

"With two elected judges and one appointed commissioner, District Court processes Sheriff, State Patrol, Department of Fisheries, State Park and WWU traffic citations. It also handles criminal misdemeanor cases, small claims, civil claims, name changes, and protection orders."

Here’s a list of services provided by the District Court:

About two thirds of their funding comes from the General Fund:

And here’s their organizational chart:

Prosecuting Attorney

"An elected official, the Prosecuting Attorney prosecutes criminal acts within the County, provides legal advice and legal services to county officials and staff, and represents and defends the County. The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office also provides assistance to victims of crime, sexual abuse, and domestic violence and provides oversight of the Whatcom County Law Library."

Here’s a list of services provided by the Prosecutor’s office:

They get just over half their funding from the General Fund:

And here’s their organizational chart:

Public Defender

"The Public Defender’s Office provides constitutionally mandated indigent legal defense for felony, misdemeanor, and probation violation charges against adults and juveniles in Whatcom County Superior and District Courts. In addition, the Office also provides representation in involuntary mental and alcohol commitment cases."

Over 90% of their funding comes from the General Fund:

And here’s their organizational chart:

Sheriff

It was the Sheriff’s late response to the break-in at Auntie Pam’s last year that prompted discussion of having our own police department instead of continuing to rely on the county Sheriff.

"An elected official, the County Sheriff is responsible for law enforcement in the unincorporated areas of Whatcom County. The sheriff also has several countywide responsibilities (serving both the cities and unincorporated areas), including operating the county jail and coordinating professional and volunteer search and rescue efforts.

"The Sheriff’s Emergency Management Division provides community education in disaster mitigation and preparedness, and plans for and coordinates disaster response and recovery efforts.

"The Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) Corrections Bureau operates the Whatcom County Jail and the Alternative Corrections program. The jail is a medium security facility responsible for the incarceration of approximately 210 prisoners daily. In addition, Whatcom County operates a minimum-security facility that can house up to an additional 150 prisoners daily. The Corrections Bureau also oversees part of a statewide transport chain that links the various jails and detention facilities. Jail transport officers make daily trips to Skagit County and the City of Marysville Jails. The Corrections Bureau is also responsible for facilitating alternative sentencing programs. Current alternative programs include: electronic home detention, work release, in custody and out of custody work crews."

Here’s a list of services the county Sheriff’s office provides:

They get about two thirds of their funding from the General Fund:

Here’s their organizational chart:

Point Roberts accounts for less than 1% of their total spending:

And here’s their actual 2019 budget for Point Roberts:

Key Point 1

We have access to all of these services and resources for the $338,775 that we pay into the General Fund for the Law and Justice category.

Key Point 2

We receive $293,965 in direct support from just the Sheriff’s department but it costs more than that to have two deputies here. Their budget for us does not include the “incidental” costs and overhead. Here are some of those items, in no particular order:

Key Point 3:

For the remaining $44,810, we have access to all of the services provided by the other departments: Superior Court, District Court, Prosecutor, and Defense Attorney, along with all of the administrative functions required to support them.

Next

In the final installment of this series, we'll compare what we pay with what we get and consider the question of whether we could support these services ourselves.

Comment from Shannon, who did the research

I talked to a lot of people in many different departments at the county about their services and budgets. Without fail, every person I talked to was open, helpful, and respectful. No one wondered what business of mine it was to ask questions about their spending of tax revenues. No one put up any kind of roadblock, no one was territorial or acted like the department in which they worked was their personal fiefdom, no one was rude, and no one said anything to the effect of, “Give us a list of your questions and we’ll answer them sometime in the future if and when we feel like it”. In other words, they were professional. Oh ya, no one called the local paperboy to complain and no one resigned.

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