County budget: Don't ask for anything new
Wahkiakum County commissioners have some advice for department heads as they start developing their 2015 budget requests: Don't get your hopes up.
Commissioners met Tuesday with Auditor Diane Tischer and Treasurer Tammy Peterson to go over the county's financial status and review revenue predictions for 2015.
The predictions aren't good, Peterson said.
For instance, the most recent projection of revenue from state-managed county trust timberland is $855,000 for 2015.
This year, Peterson said, the county should receive $1 million in trust timber revenue; the average for the past few years has been $1.2 million, and Tischer noted that the 2014 county budget expected $1.2 million in trust timber revenue.
Commission Chair Dan Cothren commented that timber prices are in decline; the market is down 10-15 percent from last year, he said.
Law and justice revenue is also tight, the officials said, and that will affect the courts, prosecuting attorney's office and the sheriff's office.
Brady said that over the past few years, law and justice expenses have increased from 30 percent of county budgets to close to 70 percent. The expense of running a department, not wage increases, is driving the increase, he said.
Tischer said the county had a $400,000 carry over in criminal justice funding from 2013 to 2014. That money is now allocated, she said, and it won't be available in 2015.
Sheriff Mark Howie has said he wants to increase the number of deputies, and he and commissioners have discussed the idea of asking voters to approve a special levy to fund those positions.
"When you ask constituents what they want, public safety is always at the top of the list," Brady said.
"If the voters understood the situation, they might support it," Cothren said.
Overall, officials said, the county will have $800,000 less next year for trust timber and state criminal justice revenues and state revenues are declining; trust timber revenues are declining.
Commissioners said they would send a letter to department heads explaining the situation, asking them to continue to be frugal, and, as Cothren said, don't ask for anything new.