Commissioners okay budgets and levies; voice concern over hunting
December 16, 2021
Wahkiakum County commissioners approved 2022 budgets, raised tax levies, modified labor contracts and discussed concerns over hunting seasons when they met Tuesday.
The board had conducted public hearings on the budget Dec. 6 and concluded the budgeting process this week. Part of the process included increasing the General Fund and County Road levies 1 percent, the maximum allowed by law without a public election.
The increase for the General Fund is $8,783.19; and for the County Road Fund, $6,008.05.
The total County Road levy will be $614,174; of that, $100,000 with be shifted to the General Fund.
The total General Fund levy will be $666,937.31; other levies included in it are Mental Health, $8,000, and Veteran's Relief, $4,000. Including the shift from the County Road Fund, the General Fund total will be $778,937.31.
The voter-approved Emergency Medical Services levy will also be increased 1 percent, $2,376.37, for a total levy of $244,595.72 to provide funding for the county's first responders.
County government gets revenue from many sources. The total General Fund budget is approximately $7.2 million and County Road $3.58 million. Other budgets and funds total close to $19 million.
Commissioners took action on several labor issues. They approved a three year contract with the county union; the contract calls for 2 percent raises each year.
The board also approved 2 percent increases for non-union employees and elected officials, excluding the county commissioners and all positions whose salaries are set by the Washington Citizen's Commission and ferry workers covered by the Masters, Mates & Pilots Union. They did raise the county medical cap for the ferry workers union.
Commissioners voiced a desire to invite the regional director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to visit and discuss hunting seasons.
Commissioner Dan Cothren, a life-long hunter, raised the issue, stating he feels months of hunting pressure are adversely impacting local deer and elk herds.
Elk and deer are hunted September into December, he said. Elk herds have been struggling with the hoof root disease, and some private timberland owners have restricted access to their land, forcing hunters into limited areas where they impact a limited number of animals.
Hunting of cow elk, too, diminishes herd numbers, for each cow will produce several offspring over their lifetime.
"We're under siege here," Cothren said. "There's also lots of predation from cats."
He and others present commented of cougar sightings they'd witnessed or of which they've been informed over the past year.