Commissioners delay budget vote
Wahkiakum County commissioners this week heard more comments on their proposed 2014 budgets and postponed action until Tuesday.
Commissioners opened the budget adoption process with a Monday morning public hearing. They adjourned to Tuesday and planned to adopt the budgets during their regular meeting, but they realized they hadn't held public hearings on their annual and six-year road construction programs.
Those hearings and action are on the commission's December 10 agenda.
"These are supposed to be adopted before we complete the budget," said Chair Blair Brady.
On Tuesday, Brady announced that commissioners learned they needed to go beyond the normal five-day limit for budget action and delay action on the budget until they had acted on the two road programs.
(See related story on Page 3 for a report of budget concerns from the board's November 26 meeting, which happened as The Eagle went to press last week.)
Assessor Bill Coons opened the comments on Monday by suggesting the board update their expected property tax collection.
Commissioners plan no increase in taxes and had listed their estimated revenue from real and personal property taxes at $673,434, the same as budgeted for the 2013 Current Expense Fund.
However, Coons said, with new construction, the actual collection, without a tax rate increase, should be $682,516, an increase of $9,000.
Commissioners liked the suggestion.
Coons then suggested the extra revenue could be used in his department to increase his part-time appraiser to full time, an increase of $3,000 plus benefits. He showed the board two boxes of files that are new sales and pointed out that in 2014 the office will have to revalue all property in the county, not just one fourth as under the traditional four-year cycle. This is a significant increase in workload, he said.
"Somebody has to be inspecting, and somebody has to be analyzing," he said. "This is a big job."
Commissioners took no action.
Cathlamet Fire Chief Fred Johnson complimented the board for maintaining the emergency services budget and not cutting it.
He suggested another use for the extra $9,000 would be to put it toward programs that benefit poor and vulnerable residents, perhaps toward a warehouse for food storage for hunger programs.
Commissioners took no action.
Brady pointed out that the board would be diverting $200,000 of the County Road Levy to the Current Expense Fund in order to meet the Current Expense budget needs.
Next, Sheriff Mark Howie reported that the Emergency Management Department would receive grant funds to cover the salary of the emergency management director's salary, and the board could restore that to full time status.
Funding had been expected to be reduced earlier this fall, and the board had reduced the position.
Emergency Management Director Beau Renfro added that the department would also have a carry over of unspent funds.
The proposed budgets have no salary increases for union or non-union employees, Brady said.