Washougal slices traffic officer position from budget

Public hearing on balanced budget and utility rate hikes will be held Monday

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It looks like City of Washougal officials will not need to use $184,680 in cash reserves in order to fund expenditures in the 2011 budget.

Changes to the preliminary budget – as presented to City Council last night – include the elimination of a vacant police position. According to Assistant Finance Director RJ Stevenson, the position had been included in the 2010 budget but remained vacant. A budget for next year had included $90,000 to hire a police officer who would focus primarily on traffic enforcement.

Another position in the police department is expected to be eliminated in 2011 – likely through attrition – according to City Administrator David Scott. The elimination of $15,000 in other expenditures helps create a balanced budget.

The $32.2 million preliminary budget includes $11.1 million in general, street and fire funds; $10.6 million in utility funds; $8.5 million in projects and grants/various funds and $2 million in other funds. The budget also has $50,000 for economic development efforts with the City of Camas and the Port of Camas-Washougal. The budget includes $5,000 for the Washougal School District Community Education, $7,500 for the Children’s Home Society and $4,000 for the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society.

The budget assumes water rate increases of 13.5 percent, sewer rate increases of 28.5 percent and storm water rate increases of 14.5 percent. The increases would help pay for construction of the zone 4 water reservoir, as well as pipe improvements, sewer plant expansion and the design phase of storm water capital improvements.

“I’m on a fixed income, and others at this table are on fixed incomes,” Councilman Rod Morris said during last night’s workshop. “I’m not happy but if we don’t do these things now, someone 10 years from now will wonder why we stopped that project.

“We listen to the public’s needs and concerns, but these things have got to be done,” he added. “There are state mandates. We simply can’t put them off.”

Council member Jennifer McDaniel described the situation as “frustrating.”

“It’s disheartening that previous councils and administrations did not have the foresight to plan ahead,” she said. “There were single digit [utilities] increases from 2002 to 2007, when the economy was doing well.”

The impact on a homeowner is expected to be a total monthly increase of $12.74, while a large retail establishment could expect to pay an increase of $125.62 per month. The expected increase for a small restaurant would be $27.41 per month.

Public hearings regarding utility rates and the 2011 budget are scheduled for Monday, at 7 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St.