MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County Commissioners are mulling scaling back the 3.5 percent cuts mandated by the previous board as part of balancing this year’s budget.
County Commissioner Wes Cormier broached the topic during the commissioners’ Monday morning meeting, noting that a lot of the departments are struggling as it is without dealing with the full brunt of the cuts.
“There are a lot of department heads that want us to address this and I thought we should at least talk about it to see what our plans are,” Cormier said. “Three to 3.5 percent cuts are a lot to take away from departments that already have skeleton crews.”
“My own personal opinion, I’d agree with you, but I don’t think we can even think about making any kind of decision until we see what the governor is going to do to us,” Commissioner Frank Gordon said. “He is a Democrat so he is going to throw a bunch of unfunded mandates at us. And that’s coming from a Democrat telling you that, but it’s an honest-to-God fact. … We need to hold on. I agree with you some of these guys are really hurting.”
The commissioners said they’ll bring the topic up again after they hear the first quarter figures on April 8. By that time, Gordon said he hopes that legislative budgets may be known. “After that we can sit down and make a decision,” Gordon said.
“I know it pushes those guys out a few weeks to twiddle their fingers, but we’ll know more then and that’s the smart way to do it,” Commission Chairman Herb Welch said.
The only budget-related decision the commissioners made on Monday was opting to do away with a pink slip that had been given to a part-time secretary at the Juvenile Detention Center. Her position is no longer in jeopardy, Welch said. The employee was set to lose her job on April 4, but Judge Dave Edwards last week asked the commissioners to restore the position. Commissioner Gordon said that out of a matter of good faith between the judges and the commissioners, they decided to do just that.
Instead of cutting the actual budget, the prior Board of County Commissioners implemented 3.5 percent across-the-board contras, giving department heads and elected officials the whole year to figure out how to accomplish their cuts. Many have been holding back, waiting to see if the newly elected commissioners would change their minds.
“If we wait too long, it puts them in a hurt, too,” Gordon said.
“At the very least, I think we should give up a quarter of the potential cuts since we’ve used a quarter of the year already so if they have to continue to do it, they would have to find the cuts from now, the first of April,” Welch said.
“That makes it even,” Gordon replied, agreeing.
Earlier this month, the commissioners restored some of the funds to the Sheriff’s Office, restoring the Resident Deputy program and courthouse security costs. They’ve also provided some extra funds to the Auditor’s Office when the State Auditor objected to the use of a special fund paying for employee salaries.
“I have heard a couple people ask about favoritism,” Gordon said.
“Your answer to why we did it to the Sheriff’s Department, just ask the person, ‘Do you carry a gun, also?’ ” Welch said.
“I don’t favor blanket cuts because I don’t think every department is the same,” Cormier said. “I’d like to see it done on a priority basis.”