ASTORIA - The Clatsop County Budget Committee has unanimously approved the proposed 2012-13 budget with one minor change.

The budget next goes to the county board of commissioners for a public hearing June 13 and final adoption June 27.

The budget committee, made up of the five county commissioners and five citizen members, went through the document department by department before voting for its approval May 8, and also set next year’s property tax rate. The 2012-13 tax rate will be $1.5338 per $1,000 assessed property value, plus $.07 per $1,000 for the County Fairgrounds local option tax levy.

Commissioner Peter Huhtala recused himself from the vote after declaring a conflict of interest. He noted that the Oregon Coastal Zone Management Association, of which he is interim director, receives money from the county in the form of membership fees.

The entire budget document can be viewed online at Copies are also available to view at local libraries and the County Manager’s Office, 800 Exchange St., Suite 410.

The special district budget committees are scheduled to meet beginning at 1 p.m. Wednesday, May 9 at the Judge Guy Boyington Building, 857 Commercial St., Astoria to review the budgets for the 4-H Extension Service Special District, Road District #1, Rural Law Enforcement District and Westport Sewer Service District.

The proposed budget totals $54,801,500, 8.8 percent lower than the current 2011-12 budget, reflecting in part reductions in capital projects, debt service and contractual services. The General Fund budget increases 3 percent, to $19,529,600.

The budget trims a handful of county positions, which were targeted due to a drop in workload or declining outside revenue. A total of two and a half positions in Assessment and Taxation and the Clerk’s Office are cut due to a drop in property-related work and document-recording as a result of the construction slow-down, while the clinical services manager position in the Public Health Department is eliminated because of a drop in state funding. Two vacant positions – emergency services manager and a parole and probation officer – are left unfilled.

The budget also adds one FTE (fulltime equivalent) planner and code enforcement position on the Community Development Department, expands a part-time position in the Emergency Management Division to fulltime to partially replace the eliminated manager position, and expands the Jail Nurse position.

Finance Director Mike Robison noted that despite the tighter fiscal situation, the county was able to limit staff reductions and meet its goals for establishing minimum reserve funds in the 2012-13 budget. But the following two fiscal years may present larger challenges to maintaining services with limited resources in the face of rising costs, he said.

The committee approved a request from member Cary Johnson to allocate $18,000 from the Special Projects Fund to pay for public outreach efforts in support of the county’s Select Area Fisheries Enhancement program. Johnson said the program and the local commercial salmon fishery is in serious jeopardy from a proposed state ballot measure that would ban gillnet fishing on the Columbia River.

The committee’s five citizen members also voted to set the County Sheriff’s monthly salary for 2012-13 at $9,027 – in line with a 2011 policy setting the salary 10 percent above that of the next highest position in the department. They also voted to maintain the county commissioners’ monthly stipends at the current levels – $1,050 for chairperson and $840 for commissioners.

The committee took no action on a suggested re-allocation of county transient room tax revenue. More than 80 percent of the $140,000 average annual collection comes from Arch Cape, and some residents have requested that the county dedicate a portion of the money each year specifically for services or projects in the unincorporated south-county community. The funds currently go to the county general fund.


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