County officials across the state are preparing to press their message to state officials: The current demands on county government aren't sustainable.
Wahkiakum County officials discussed the issue Tuesday with Brian Enslow of the Washington State Association of Counties, a group which lobbies for counties in the legislature.
The group, called WSAC, is more than that, said commission Chair Blair Brady, who is active in the organization.
"When I introduce myself, I say I'm from the Washington Department of Counties," Brady said. "That gets their attention."
The state, Enslow and Brady said, has been delegating services to counties and not providing adequate funding for them. The problem, they add, is that counties' expenses are outstripping their revenues.
"County government across the state is not on a sustainable path," Enslow said.
Counties have limited ability to raise funds, basically property and sales taxes. Counties' revenue grow is 1-3 percent per year, Enslow said, and costs are going up 3-6 percent.
WSAC is planning a strong effort to take that message to legislators in the next two years, Enslow said, and he and other WSAC are visiting counties to gather input from department heads about their financial situations to put together a complete report in the fall.
Enslow said the discussion over how to generate new revenue, such as through new or higher taxes, is hard, for many officials at all levels of government oppose that.
"We know revenue is hard," he said, "and it's not a solution for all. What we feel is that you cannot save enough to maintain your services. So if not revenue, then what services will be cut?"
Wahkiakum department heads were pleased with the plan.
Assesor Bill Coons said it would be important for the counties to speak with a unified voice.
"Let's not forget we are the state's partners for delivering services," said Health and Human Services Director Sue Cameron.
In other business, representatives of Worksource Development Council discussed ways of providing more service in Wahkiakum County. The agency coordinates job training and related services in Clark, Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties.
Commissioners opened bids for repair of a slide section of Loop Road. Catworks LLC was the low bidder at $4257,922. Public Works Director Pete Ringen will examine the bids and make a recommendation on August 27.
The board approved the formation of an agricultural tax advisory committee. Mandated by the state Department of Revenue, the committee will meet occasionally during the year to advise the county assessor on the value of agricultural land.
Commissioners authorized the hiring of a mental health therapist to serve clients or families needing complex services. The position is dependent on state funding, which is set only through June, 2015.