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Skyline, city face tough decisions after levy votes

Bugetary options be looked at

After seeing their respective property tax levy proposals being soundly rejected by local voters on Nov. 2, Skyline Hospital and the city of White Salmon are considering their budgetary options.

Skyline asked voters to approve general obligation bonds via increased property taxes. The fund would go to modernize and expand several departments within the hospital and build new patient rooms.

White Salmon asked for a "property tax levy lid lift" of 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for one year to get it through 2005. City officials hope that anticipated annexations will bring more revenue to the city in 2006.

Updated election results from the Klickitat County Auditor's Office showed the Skyline measure -- which required a 60 percent supermajority to gain passage -- not even gaining a simple majority. As of Nov. 5, there were 2,461 No votes (54.5 percent), and 2,054 Yes votes (45.5 percent) in support of the measure.

Mike Madden said no decision about how to proceed had yet been reached.

"We've got a couple of options," Madden said. "We can run the levy again next April, and we have an opportunity to get a couple federal loans."

Despite the measure's defeat, Madden maintained a positive attitude.

"I'm actually pretty pleased, in view of the other things going on, and the record turnout," Madden explained. "I'm pretty pleased with the 45 percent we got. I don't think the levy was a referendum on whether or not we need the hospital, or I'd feel different about it."

Madden said the Skyline Board of Commissioners would meet in December, and a decision on what the hospital's next step will be was expected then.

"There's no question the work we're trying to get done needs to be done if the hospital is to survive as a viable entity in the community," he explained.

Updated results for the city of White Salmon's measure showed a total of 625 No votes, and 218 Yes votes. That represents a 74.1 percent vote against the property tax levy.

White Salmon Mayor Linda Jones was philosophical about the levy's defeat at the polls.

"Naturally I'm disappointed, but I was not surprised," Jones said. "I understand people not wanting any more taxes."

Jones added that no decisions could be made on what cuts would need to be made in city government until the 2005 budget is completed.

"We'll hammer through the budget and see how we stand," Jones said. "We're going to be assertive with annexation, and see where that goes."

Jones said the city wants to complete the new budget by the first week of December.

"We need to get the budget concluded, and it has to go through the City Council and be adopted by the end of the year," she explained.


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