With a rapid-fire series of meetings, the city of White Salmon's budget committee has been working on what has become an increasingly desperate concern: What the city's budget will look like for 2008.
The city is reported to be approximately $102,000 currently "in the red" for 2007 -- and 2008 is not looking much better. Community leaders and citizens are hoping to forge some kind of solution, but with a Dec. 31 deadline to approve a budget closing in, the meetings have been coming fast and furious.
The budget committee has been working overtime lately trying to get the 2007 budget resolved and a 2008 budget in place. The budget committee met on Nov. 28 and again on Dec. 3, and, to try to catch up, the committee will meet thrice over the next week -- on Dec. 10, Dec. 12, and Dec. 17.
"It is a lot of meetings, but you can never make up for lost time," said Shirley Cox, chair of the 10-member budget committee.
The goal is to have the White Salmon City Council adopt the necessary 2007 budget amendments, as well as a 2008 budget, at the White Salmon City Council's Dec. 19 meeting.
"We've had disappointing news -- the anticipated revenue projections were overly optimistic. That has played in to part of the problem," Cox explained. "With adjustments in the real estate market, there was not the amount of revenue generated from building permits and hookups, that sort of stuff."
New Mayor David Poucher said the city's budget problems have been brewing for a long time.
"We got into this over a period of five or six years, with overspending and what not," Poucher explained. "We need to really start looking at cuts."
"The city needs to be more efficient, as well as looking at where we can enhance revenues or trim expenses," agreed Cox.
Poucher said there was one area where he would not agree to make cuts. He pointed out that he did not think it would be fair to take funds from the city's swimming pool, because it is very important to young people in the community.
"I don't want to balance the budget on the back of the city pool," Poucher said. "Children didn't get us into this, adults did. I won't balance it on their backs. Because adults have overspent, that's the last place I want to cut. I want to keep the pool open and look at other things."
With the city of White Salmon without a clerk/treasurer following the recent resignation of Eric Greene, White Salmon has been getting budget help on a temporary basis from Bingen's clerk/treasurer, Jan Brending.
Brending said she has presented the budget committee with projected revenues and a budget report.
"The city hasn't yet seen their expenses plugged in compared to what their revenues will be. That's how far behind they are," Brending said. "The city has until Dec. 31 to approve a budget. No one wants to go that far; certainly not me."
Given the deadline, Cox conceded that the committee is under pressure to get a budget in place before Dec. 19.
"The next week after that is Christmas," Cox said. "Who wants to be meeting after Christmas? We have to adopt something, but we may have to go back and amend it."