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

County tax burden declines 15 percent

Commissioners consider cars, wildlife progress, computers


January 17, 2019

By Rick Nelson

Wahkiakum County's property tax and special assessment collections will decline 15 percent this year, Assessor Bill Coons announced at the weekly meeting of the county board of commissioners on Tuesday.

Coons said total property tax and special assessment collections will be $4.15 million in 2019, down from $4.9 million in 2018. This is a reduction of $733,680, he said.

The overall levy rates are decreasing 20 percent because of a combination of factors, Coons said.

First, the state legislature backed off the State 2 Education Levy by 36 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Second, the legislature's cap of $1.50 per $1,000 of assessed value starts this year, resulting in a reduction of 95 cents per thousand for the Wahkiakum School District (WSD) and $1.49 per thousand for the Naselle/Grays River Valley School District (N/GRVSD).

Third, the WSD levies for capital projects and bond repayments expired, resulting in reductions of 28 cents and 23 cents per thousand, respectively, for an overall reduction of 51 cents per thousand.

"Taxpayers in the Cathlamet school district will see a reduction of $1.82 per thousand, and those in Naselle/Grays River Valley will get a drop of $1.85," Coons said.

"While this is not my doing, it nevertheless should make me a tad more popular," he quipped.

"I am concerned about a reduction in funding for our school," he added, "and I leave it to our school superintendents to communicate the ramifications of these levy reductions."

[Ed .: The Eagle will follow up next week with reports from school officials.]

In other business before the board of commissioners on Tuesday:

--Commissioners agreed to replace an aging Ford Taurus used by Health and Human Services Department staff, but held off on replacing a 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier.

H&HS Director Chris Bischoff said staff say the Cavalier is shaky and feels unsafe above 45 mph. However, Public Works Director Chuck Beyer said, the Cavalier hasn't yet reached the mileage threshold for replacement.

"They've given all they have to give," Bischoff commented about the two vehicles.

Board Chair Dan Cothren suggested approving replacement of the Taurus and revisiting the Cavalier in the middle of the year when the department has a better picture of future funding and county mechanics can evaluate the Cavalier's condition. A motion to that effect passed.

--Commissioners voted to support a proposal from Toutle resident Mark Smith to replace the governor-appointed state Fish and Wildlife Commission with a statewide Wildlife Congress.

In his proposal, Smith says the current commission is out of touch with people and issues across the state and rely too much on department staff for information. Consequently, they support policies that are damaging wildlife, including orcas, elk and anadramous fish.

Under the proposal, each county and tribe would have one member in the congress, and they would bring local knowledge and expertise to the program. The congress would be divided into two groups, one in charge of fishery issues, and the other in charge of game.

"I think it's much needed," Cothren said. "We don't get much say in our small county."

"I agree," said Commissioner Mike Backman. "With an appointed agency, there's no direct response to the people. With elected officials, they have to get back to the people."

"And with one vote, one county, it puts more voice in for the rural counties," added Commissioner Gene Strong.

The board passed Strong's motion to write a letter to state legislators supporting the Wildlife Congress Concept.

--The board continued discussion of potential contract renewal of information technology services with More Power Technology Group and its principal, Chris Leiker.

More Power provides support services for the county's computer network, cloud service, IT security and other technological issues. The new contract would be for $11,000 per month, an increase of $3,000 per month from the current contract.

Commissioners were concerned about the increase and have wanted to study the issue.

IT managers have responded that the cost of IT support has increased because of heavy demand, and the expansion of system and security demands also contribute to increased expense.

On Tuesday Leiker reviewed the company's work with the county and commented that it would be difficult for the county to replace the specialized knowledge his staff has and that a new county IT support crew would cost more per year in salaries than under the More Power contract, and the county's smaller crew would be unable to provide as much support in a timely fashion than the More Power crew can provide.


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