County budget sees slight increase; ORVs are talking point

  • Mon Oct 31st, 2016 10:00pm
  • News

The Grays Harbor County commissioners approved a supplemental budget to cover over-run costs while also accounting for additional revenue.

With a positive influx of more than $252,000 for the general fund, the ending cash (which serves they general fund’s reserves) will increase by more than $308,000.

In total, the general fund is projected to finish 2016 with $4.6 million in ending cash.

While the supplemental budget shows a somewhat positive bump in the general fund, the general fund continues to function with an operating deficit. With the supplemental budget, the county’s general fund has an operating deficit of about $875,000, county budget director Brenda Sherman said.

The largest increases in revenue brought by the supplemental budget include: an increase in payment in lieu of tax (known as PILT payments, paid by the Department of Interior for local federal lands that could generate tax revenue if not owned by the federal government) at more than $32,000; Some $200,000 in local retail sales tax; $145,000 in Department of Natural Resources timber trust funds; and $100,000 in increased building permits.

County timber revenue was decreased by $190,000, and franchise fees and penalties both decreased by $50,000 and $40,000 respectively.

With revenue increases also came expenditure increases. The largest increases were $50,000 for public defense, $14,550 for salaries and wages for the Prosecutor’s Office, and $5,450 for personnel benefits for the Prosecutor’s Office.

The supplemental budget unanimously was approved.

ORVs

T’he commissioners continue to consider additional roads to be approved for ORV use.

State law allows for ORV use on public roads, so long as a municipality or county approves its own rules.

ORVs are allowed in Montesano, Elma and McCleary. Following the approval of those cities, Grays Harbor County approved ORVs for specific county roads.

On Monday, Montesano resident Steve Hyde encouraged the commissioners to approve ORV use on all roads with posted speed limits of 35 mph or less countywide.

Currently, some roads approved for ORVs on certain stretches, but not for the whole road. Hyde said he preferred continuity.

“It’s just nice to know exactly what’s going on, and not get to a section of road and find out you can’t get any further even though it is 35mph,” Hyde said.

Commissioner and Chairwoman Vickie Raines said additional roads had been forwarded to the county’s legal team as well as to the Grays Harbor County Sheriff’s Office for approval.

Hyde referenced Devonshire Road in Montesano which allows for ORV use for all but the overpass that crosses the highway. The situation is somewhat unique because the overpass is owned by the state but the asphalt on the overpass is maintained by the county.

Commissioner Wes Cormier said he preferred to maintain jurisdiction.

Other business

Commissioners Cormier and Gordon each had additional information on the morning agenda, and discussion of both items were postponed.

Cormier had asked to discuss a road levy reduction. Levies cap, and the county has precedence over districts. So because the road levy has capped, other districts, like fire districts, are not able to increase their levies to make up for shortfalls or cover expense increases. If the county could lower its road levy, that could free some of the levy for districts and municipalities.

T’he discussion of a road levy reduction was postponed to a workshop on Nov. 1. The commissioners do not take action during workshops.

Gordon had submitted an initiative petition originally sent to the Spokane City Council which, if approved by voters, would make it a “class 1 civil infraction” to ship coal and some types of oil by rail through downtown Spokane or within 2,000 feet of a school.

Raines asked for the discussion to be postponed as she had forwarded the information to the county’s legal team and had reached out to Spokane to get an update on the status of the initiative.

A similar ordinance was approved by the Spokane City Council in July but was rolled back in September. The newly proposed ordinance has revised language.