GH Commissioners roll back some budget cuts

MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved restoring roughly half of the budget cuts first enacted in January of this year.

There was a public hearing on the issue, but no one testified. County Commissioner Herb Welch said the county decided to restore the funds because the county’s finances are healthier.

However, Welch said he was hesitant to restore too much. For one thing, he noted, that next year the county commissioners were going to try to do without an unpopular road levy shift, which raised $750,000 for the county by increasing property taxes on residents of incorporated cities. Keeping some of the cuts intact now will help free up money later, he said. Welch said it’s also an unknown what the state Legislature will do in terms of budgeting that could affect county spending.

The county restored $271,216 of the $571,089 cut from all of the offices that use the county’s general fund, including the Sheriff’s Office, the Auditor’s Office and many others. The extra funds, along with budget transfers from some miscellaneous funds to the general fund last week helped bring the mandated cuts from 3.5 percent across the board to about 1.75 percent across the board.

Besides eliminating some cuts, the proposal also eliminates the salary contributions the previous Board of Commissioners had committed for newcomers Cormier and Gordon, as well as Welch.

The commission office’s budget assumed that each commissioner would donate $5,530 back to the county’s general fund. The proposal eliminates that requirement.

Welch points out that the commissioners are still paying for their own travel out of the county, as well as their own hotel and registration costs for training purposes.

Budget Director Brenda Sherman briefed the commissioners on the current status of the county’s budget Monday morning. Sherman said the county’s $24.7 million operations budget is expected to have an ending cash reserve of $5.57 million. That’s a good $1 million more than budgeted.

Sherman credited most of the increased revenues from unbudgeted timber sales. There was also an extra $280,880 increase in property tax revenue that wasn’t expected, she said.

About the only unforeseen expenses on the horizon could be a $75,000 cost to replace the intercom system in the county jail, and increased costs for the county commissioners to pay for attorneys dealing with the defense of a lawsuit Superior Court judges brought against the county over budget matters, Sherman said.