Washougal defers decisions on ballot items

Levy lid lift and form of government could be issues in November

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The Washougal City Council is expected to consider putting a 10 cent levy lid lift before voters, as early as the Nov. 5 General Election.

If approved, the lift would be expected to generate $129,000, which could be identified for fire and emergency medical services. The annual cost to the owner of a house valued at $250,000 would be $25.10.

The city can contemplate a levy lid lift of up to 24 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That would cost the owner of a $250,000 house $60 per year, and it could generate $309,000.

Finance Director Jennifer Forsberg has said, with current assumptions, the city could face a $303,651 deficit in 2014. That is based on projected revenue of $10.8 million and expenditures of $11.1 million.

Expense side solutions to offset the deficit, mentioned by Forsberg during the council meeting last night, included not contributing $60,000 to a fund used for purchasing items such as computer equipment and vehicles.

Councilman Dave Shoemaker said the fund for capital expenses should be maintained.

“It’s a financial attitude — a philosophy of pay yourself first into the savings account, so you’ll be ready for major expenditures when they come,” he said later by phone. “If you are going to find savings in the budget to avoid a levy lid lift, don’t do it this way. You’re passing the problem onto another council.”

Forsberg mentioned there is approximately $203,000 in remaining funds from the “E” Street improvements. There were six funding sources for that project.

A vote regarding whether to have voters decide on a levy lid lift in November could occur during the July 22 council meeting, at 7 p.m.

Council action on form of government is expected at next meeting

The council is also expected to decide whether to put the issue of a potential change to the city’s form of government on the Nov. 5 ballot during its July 22 meeting.

Councilwoman Joyce Lindsay had recently requested the issue of changing from a strong mayor to a council-manager form of government be explored.

Council members Caryn Plinski and Connie Jo Freeman both had excused absences from last night’s meeting.

Councilwoman Jennifer McDaniel recommended the vote occur July 22, and councilman Brent Boger concurred.

During public comments, Larry Keister said he does not believe now is the time to change the form.

“We have a mayor who is passionate about the community,” he said.

“Possibly two or three years from now, let’s take another look at it,” Keister added.

According to the Municipal Research and Services Center, with a council-manager plan, council members appoint a city manager, and that person appoints and directs the department heads. A city manager can be removed by a majority vote of the council.

With a council-manager system, the mayor presides at council meetings and is head of the city for ceremonial purposes, but has no regular administrative duties.