County commissioners declined a 1 percent property tax revenue increase allowed under state law, and approved the county’s 2012-13 budget.
The budget calls for total expenditures of $848.3 million. The general fund, the pool of money which commissioners have direct control over, is set at $295 million.
Commissioners Marc Boldt and Tom Mielke both voted to approve the budget, and in favor of turning away the tax hike. Commissioner Steve Stuart was absent for the vote, but indicated at a Tuesday night budget hearing that he would have voted the same way.
“Every election I saw on tax issues in Clark County went down,” said Stuart, the lone Democrat on the commission. “It’s pretty clear people are taxed out, and I think we ought to respect that.”
Still, Stuart said, the price of doing business will continue to rise. He said if the county continues to decline the 1 percent increase, it will soon run up against the reality of reducing services.
“The price of goods goes up, just like it does in the rest of the world,” Stuart said. “You can’t have it all for nothing. It’s just not realistic. I am supportive of not raising the tax. I am realistic people can’t have it all for nothing. Sometimes there is sunshine and light that gets thrown around out there but there is a reality check. And we will have that reality check later on.”
‘Holding a line’
Mielke said on Tuesday night he recognized the county has been “holding a line” in regard to balancing an austere budget. He also said he felt not taking an extra 1 percent is the right thing to do for county taxpayers.
“I guess I always go back, and I look at what is going on out in the real world,” Mielke said. “And one of the proposed things I see for people on Social Security is they might get a 1.7 percent increase next year. And I think their Medicare is going up 5 percent … so in the real world, and for people on a fixed income, I get real concerned as to what the government adds to the cost of living. And sometimes I think we have to live within our means too. I feel very, very strong about that.”
One of the largest expenditures in the budget comes as part of a $48 million transportation improvement plan which County Administrator Bill Barron calls “ambitious.”
“The major parts of (the transportation improvement plan) are completing the Salmon Creek Interchange, finishing work on (Northeast) 88th Street and starting work on (Northeast) 10th Avenue,” Barron said. “The project on 88th will be a major artery from east to west and 10th is intended to enhance our fairgrounds.”
Two requests for additional staff from elected officials, who have their department budgets set by the county general fund, will go unfilled until at least a supplemental budget hearing in April.
Clark County Superior Court is asking to hire a third court commissioner to keep up with dependency cases relating to child neglect. The position costs $340,000 over the course of a two-year budget.
Clark County Prosecuting Attorney Tony Golik is requesting funds to hire an additional deputy prosecuting attorney in 2014. The cost of the position is expected to be around $71,000 for one year.
Erik Hidle: 360-735-4547; http://twitter.com/col_clarkgov; firstname.lastname@example.org.