The end is in sight for the Wahkiakum County board of commissioners as they put together their preliminary budget for 2013.
Commissioners held their final meetings with department heads and other parties with intersets in the budget process Tuesday. After the county auditor's office has updated revenue projections, Commissioner Lisa Marsyla and Clerk of the Board Marsha LaFarge will compile the figures for a final review next week. The figures will go to the auditor's office for printing of the proposed budget, which is due to be published November 19.
Commissioners are projecting a decline in revenue of around $500,000 from 2012 to 2013, said Commissioner Blair Brady.
State Criminal Justice Funds still appear to be declining, they said; the county received a special state appropriation of $700,000 in 2012 as part of a continuing movement to compensate counties for loss of revenue from state managed timberland that has become locked up because of endangered species habitat restrictions. The board may have to shift $200,000 from the County Road Levy into the Current Expense Fund to help cover the shortfall.
The board expects expenses to increase next year, for it is negotiating a new contract with the county employees union, and several department heads have requested increases in staffing.
Assessor Bill Coons proposed a reclassification of staff members and addition of clerical time to be paid by the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) fund.
Coons said the redefined staff positions should eventually include another appraiser, for he is the only certified appraiser on the staff, and as the county moves into an annual revaluation cycle in 2014, there will be more demands on his time. He would eliminate the position of chief deputy in place of adding the appraiser. Overall, the moves would increase his budget about $17,000, he said.
"This is part of the overall transition of my office that was in crisis when I took over," he said.
Coons proposed that the extra clerical work be paid through overtime.
Members of the Cathlamet Library Board appeared to request the county budget a $3,000 contribution to the library. The county has made similar appropriations in the past, but didn't in 2012.
Library board members Toni Hardy, Chris Holmes and Betsy Nelson spoke in favor of the appropriation.
The $3,000 would help the library cover expenses; with out it, the library may have to cut hours. The Town of Cathlamet budget $28,000 for the library, she said, and thay pays for about 15 hours per week. The library has a paid librarian and many volunteers.
About 2/3 of the patrons are county residents living outside the city limits, and about 2/3 of the volunteers are also county residents, she said.
"I know you all support the library and understand the importance of the library," she said.
Commission Chair Dan Cothren and Commissioner Lisa Marsyla said they supports the library, but the board has to be balanced in its appropriations.
"The way I look at it is this," Cothren said. "We've put quite a bit of money into Johnson Park (Grays River Valley Center, which houses a volunteer operated library). I look at it as a balance."
Marsyla said she would favor an appropriation that would be conditioned that the town wouldn't reduce its funding by the amount the county budgets.
"Non-surplanting," Commissioner Blair Brady said. "It could be made conditional."
Commissioners said they would keep the request in mind and see what could be done.
In other budget conversations:
Washington State University Cooperative Extension Agent Carrie Backman reported her administrators had given her a four-year contract. So far, she has had only one-year contracts for the agent's job. She asked for an increase in funding for the Marine Resource Committee coordinator funding for administering grant applications; the clerical assistance will allow Backman to search for more grants to fund Extension programs.
Auditor Diane Tischer said she needs increased staffing to ease demands on staff. The shortage makes it hard for staff to get away for training conferences or to take accumulated vacations.
District Court Judge Bill Faubion made a similar request for additional extra help; he also asked the board to consider increase the judge's position from a 30 percent position to a 40 percent position.
The duties of the position have increased greatly over the years, he said, and the judge has much more administrative work and overall responsibility to to address.
Acting Sheriff Mark Howie and Chief Civil Deputy Joannie Bjorge discussed their budgets. Bjorge said a communications officer/jailer has been called to active US military duty and will leave for a 14-month tour next year, so the jail should have funding for a temporary replacement.
Howie reported that a Puget Island house seized in a drug raid had been sold for $118,000. State law requires 10 percent to go to the state and the rest be spent on drug related programs. Howie said $49,000 is likely going to the Cowlitz/Wahkiakum Drug Task Force, and some of the remainder should be used to replace aging portable radios.