Workable emergency radio system needed
July 28, 2022
To The Eagle:
Wahkiakum County proposes a two-tenths of a percent increase in sales tax charged within the county. The county’s current sales tax rate is 7.6 percent. The proposed increase would increase that rate to 7.8 percent.
While my general reaction is one of opposition to every tax increase, this proposal has my support. Its goal is to generate funding specifically earmarked to maintain a workable, county-wide emergency radio system. This system is a critical factor in providing residents and visitors to the county with timely emergency service. The emergency radio system is an essential tool used by all first responders in the county. Included in this list of first responders is the sheriff’s office, all five county fire departments, emergency medical services, public works, public utilities, Wahkiakum school district, the Town of Cathlamet, and the Washington State Patrol. Given the chaotic nation-wide social environment and projections of natural disasters such as the Cascadia earthquake, the people of Wahkiakum County need and deserve an emergency radio system that enables coordination among its first responders.
The emergency radio system currently in use is in need of updating. There are areas within the county in which radio communications are non-existent. County funding is insufficient for updating and maintaining a truly county-wide emergency radio system. On a separate track, efforts are underway to secure federal funding necessary for a one-time overall system update. The proposed sales tax increase would generate funding for the maintenance and future updating of the system.
While there are other tax increase approaches such as property tax which could serve to support the county’s emergency radio system, I favor the proposed sales tax. Unlike property tax with its silent and inexorable growth, the amount paid in sales tax is solely dependent upon choice of purchase. It also spreads the source of funding among visitors to the county as well as residents which is appropriate since visitors can also experience needs for emergency services.
The proposed two-tenths of a percent sales tax increase is authorized by the state legislature (RCW 82.14.420). That legislation requires the funding derived by the increase, projected to be $130,000 annually, is specifically limited to the operation and maintenance of the emergency radio system.
In light of the above, I wish to submit my support for the proposed two-tenths of a percent increase in Wahkiakum County’s sales tax.