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

Brady, Cothren reject late budget proposals


December 14, 2017

Rick Nelson

As Cathlamet Librarian Carol Blix presented her request to county commissioners for an appropriation for the library, friends of the library held up a petition signed by many patrons supporting the request. Photo by Rick Nelson.

Wait and see.

That was the message from the Wahkiakum County board of commissioners to public officials making late requests for changes in the 2018 budgets.

Prosecuting Attorney Dan Bigelow and District Court Judge Heidi Heywood were asking for pay class increases for two staff members each, saying circumstances earlier this fall kept them from making the requests when other department heads made them, and which commissioners subsequently approved.

Town of Cathlamet Librarian Carol Blix was asking for an appropriation that would represent a county share for library expense, similar to past appropriations.

In his written request, Bigelow pointed out that his budget request was prepared before the board completed their revenue forecast, "and personal tragedy left me no time to adjust.

"There is no fair reason for my employees to suffer on account of that," he said in the request.

On Tuesday, he said the $5,000 to cover the raise could come from reassigning money budgeted for DNA identification work. He said the DNA program director has budgeted to cover charges for some financially strapped counties, including Wahkiakum, so the $5,000 line could be used for the pay class increases for his two employees.

Similarly, Heywood, who was appointed to the position in September, said she didn't completely understand the budgeting process, and now clerks in the Superior Court office are receiving the pay class increases, while her clerks, who do similar work, are not.

"All I can tell you is that District Court lives within its budget or less," she said. "All we're asking is that apples be treated like apples. The offices are comparable and have been treated the same."

The increase for the two clerks would be $6,694.44.

The requests drew support only from Commissioner Mike Backman.

Commissioner Dan Cothren, participating in the meeting via telephone, said he wants to see what the legislature appropriates for the county in the Capital Budget. The Capital Budget for this year has been hung up in a dispute between the state House and Senate; it contains a $1 million appropriation to compensate the county for lost revenue from trust land which is encumbered by endangered species habitat regulations. The board expects another $1 million to come from the 2018 legislative session, but Commissioners Cothren and Blair Brady said they wanted to see the appropriation bills are signed by the governor before acting on the budget requests.

"I'm not moving till we see what we're getting," Cothren said.

"I disagree," Backman replied. "We want this for all departments. You don't do just part. We want every department to feel valued.

"It doesn't feel right to my gut not to. I think we need to do it."

"I agree with Commissioner Cothren," Brady said, "and we wait to see what we get."

Brady and Cothren took the same stance for the Cathlamet library.

Librarian Blix has reported that over half of the library's patrons live outside the city limits; individuals pay $10 annually for a card. She presented an analysis showing that the library's value in service to the community is $15,890 a month, or $190,684 annually.

"We're only asking for $5,000 to keep fees down," she said. "We're trying to do as much as we can with what we have."

Brady indicated disappointment that there was no interest in his suggestion to form a library district that would fund itself through taxes.

"We tried it," Backman said of an unsuccessful effort a decade ago. "And I had glares from people for six months after."

Cothren said he wanted to hold off on this request, too, until the Capital Budget is approved.

"I'm with Dan on that," Brady said. "We have a [proposed] budget that is balanced, and if we get more, we can see what we can do."

With that, the board voted to approve the 2018 budgets without the additions; they'll have formal resolutions on the budgets to sign at their meeting next Tuesday.


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