Commissioners OK 2021 budgets, 1 percent levy increase
December 17, 2020
Wahkiakum County commissioners on Tuesday approved budgets for 2021 and, by 2-1 votes, raised county levy rates by 1 percent.
County budgets, ranging from the General Fund to the Road Department total $26.19 million. The county's three levies total $1.71 million.
The General Fund levy will be $878, 390.54.
The Road District levy will be $600,805.38; of that, $250,000 will be shifted to the General Fund.
The Emergency Medical Services levy will be $237,750.45. It is a voter-approved levy; voters set the rate and any increase.
The county commission may increase county tax levies 1 percent annually, higher increases require voter approval.
Commissioners twice voted 2-1 to increase the General Fund and Road District levies by 1 percent. The increase totals $11,885.46. Commissioners Dan Cothren and Gene Strong voted for the increases; Mike Backman opposed them.
"This has been a hard year for a lot of people," Backman commented. "This isn't much money, but it's a big deal for a lot of people. The state won't hold it against us in a covid year.
"I don't think it's a good idea."
Backman echoed comments earlier from the meeting when Puget Island resident Jason Will spoke during the time for public comment.
"I'm against this (the 1% increase)," Will told the commissioners.
"I don't think I'm getting much in return," he said after reciting his community volunteer activities, ranging from serving on the county planning commission and noxious weed control board to being a fire fighter in the Puget Island Fire Department. He commented that the tax money apparently goes to projects outside his community.
Strong and Cothren acknowledged the concerns but felt the move was necessary to support county lobbying for funds at the state level.
"I understand what you're saying, but there's not much we can do," Strong said. "When you talk to people in Olympia, they ask if you're using all the resources available to you. They may say they won't hold it against us because of covid, but I don't know if I can believe that."
"Legislators have brought it up to me, asking if we're getting as much from the county as possible," he said. "I don't like to pay taxes either, but we do gain on it. You have to do it. We're getting a lot from the state, so we have to do it."