By Marcy Stamper

The Okanogan County commissioners have begun work on the budget for 2014, but numbers are still quite preliminary, according to chief accountant Judy Erbele.

Commissioners are looking at an increase of about $318,000 in the current expense budget, which covers county departments such as planning, sheriff and courts, compared with the 2013 budget. The preliminary amount budgeted for the county’s current expense is almost $20.2 million.

Areas including Central Services, the treasurer and the state examiner (who helps conduct audits) have been slated for reductions. The largest cut, 21 percent, would be to the Equalization Board, which hears appeals of property-tax valuations, although the overall budget for that board is just over $5,000.

The largest increases have been budgeted for the auditor (almost 20 percent) and the board that handles disability claims for law enforcement officers (38 percent), but that allocation is a tiny part of the whole, going from just $790 to $1,090.

The Noxious Weed Board has a projected 40-percent reduction and the sheriff’s special projects may see a 24-percent cut. The amount budgeted for programs to help the homeless may go up by 22 percent.

The commissioners do not yet have a budget from the Department of Public Works, and budget requests from the junior districts, such as the fire and communications districts, are not due until the end of November, said Erbele.

The county commissioners will be working on the budget over the next two months. The budget must be approved by the end of the year.