The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Revisions continue for county budget

District court, Cathlamet library seek late appropriations


November 30, 2017

The proposed 2018 Wahkiakum County budgets have been published, and the public hearing commences next Monday morning, but county commissioners continue to hear requests for modifications and appropriations.

On Tuesday, commissioners heard requests from Wahkiakum District Court and the Town of Cathlamet Library for appropriations, and they heard comments in a public hearing of new ferry fares that led them to change their planned new rates.

Commissioners had planned a basic 5 percent increase in ferry fares, with additions of some new rates for long vehicles such as trucks with trailers.

Puget Island resident Sylvia Costich pointed out that the proposed increases for the 22- and 44-ticket frequent traveler books were far from 5 percent. The rate per round trip was just a few cents more than the new one-way rate, she said.

"So people with round trips are basically getting a free ride," she said.

"Those are good points," commented commission Chair Blair Brady.

When the commissioners deliberated on the proposed rates, Commissioner Dan Cothren supported the favorable rates for commuters who live in the county and work in Oregon.

"They bring that income back to Wahkiakum County, so that's the way I look at it," he said.

However Brady and Commissioner Mike Backman felt the increases should be closer to 20 percent.

With that, they asked Public Works Director Chuck Beyer to adjust the frequent traveler rates so that they were closer to the 20 percent increase.

District Court Judge Heidi Heywood asked the board to raise her office's two clerks one pay class, as is being done for some other county offices. As a newly appointed official, she didn't realize how she needed to make that request early in the budget process, she said.

"We're just asking for parity at this juncture," Heywood said. "Please don't punish these employees for my error."

Commissioners were reluctant to make the change.

"I would like to see what we get from the Capital Budget," Cothren said. That budget contains a significant appropriation to compensate the county for lost timber harvest but hasn't yet been passed by the legislature.

"We're at the point where we need to see what we do financially next year with the Capital Budget," he said.

Commissioner Mike Backman pointed out that the request would only require an additional $6,694.

"Let's look at the money we do have," he said; "I would support doing it.

Brady pointed out that the employees would receive a 3 percent raise just as all other employees receive.

Heywood said she would present a comparison of positions to demonstrate the parity of positions for more discussion next week.

Cathlamet Council Member Sue Cameron and town Librarian Carol Blix asked the commission to add a $10,000 appropriation for the town library.

She acknowledged that previous appropriation had been $3,000, but there was none for this year.

Blix presented a report showing that over 50 percent of the library's card holders live outside the city limits. They pay a fee to have a library card, but fees are low, $10 for an individual, $18 for a family, and $4 for children.

"However, an increase will be necessary without additional funding," she said.

She added:

--Current funding would probably not allow for increased hours of operation to include mornings or evenings;

--The requested $10,000 support would be less that 25 percent of the annual operating costs for the library, and

--The county has not supported the library since 2013.

Backman said he would like to support the library and moved to appropriate $5,000 for a contribution.

The motion died without a second, but commissioners agreed they would consult with the auditor's office and see what funds might be available.


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