The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Michele Smith
the Times 

Columbia County Board of Commissioners concerned about budget


April 16, 2020

DAYTON—A revenue shortfall associated with the costs for mitigating damage to county infrastructure due to the recent flood, and from economic impacts due to the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the Columbia County Board of Commissioners to take an early look at cutting department budgets.

County Treasurer Carla Rowe said she is anticipating a possible 15 to 20-percent loss of sales tax revenue which could impact distributions for May, June, July, and possibly August.

The revenue from sales taxes go into the County’s Current Expense Budget and the commissioners use this money to fill gaps in budgets throughout each year.

Rowe said the good news is tax collections appear to be in line with last year’s collections and that many people have paid the full amount, early on.

Forty percent of the property tax collected for the County is through individual property tax assessments. The other 60-percent income derives from industry, agriculture and mortgage companies, she said.

Those funds are designated for expenditures such as roads and schools, and can’t be used to shore up the Current Expense Budget.

Public Works Director Charles Eaton said he is expecting a 30 to 40-percent loss of revenue for his department, due to lower gas tax collections. He said social distancing is working so well that King County is only collecting 60-percent of what is usually collected. Counties throughout the state get a share in King County’s gas tax collection, he said.

County Auditor Anne Higgins is recommending that all department heads take an early look at their budgets and make cuts wherever possible.

Not much is known about possible federal financial help to the county for flood damage mitigation or reimbursement from the economic slowdown due to COVID-19

On Monday, the County Commissioners began working with the department managers to identify where cuts can be made to their individual budgets.


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