Thursday, December 27, 2007
On Dec. 19, with virtually no time to spare, the White Salmon City Council agreed on the city's 2008 budget.
"It's a bare bones budget," said Jaci Dietsch, who serves on the White Salmon Budget Committee. "It's so bare bones, it could be called skeletal."
Dietsch, who called the process of getting a budget written "desperate," urged the council members to approve it as presented, and not try to tinker with it.
She added that the budget that was approved means that the city will start 2008 with zero reserves.
"To find our way back to fiscal health, please enact the budget as is," she said. "We did the best we could in the short period we had."
Jan Brending, the clerk-treasurer of Bingen who has been working with the city of White Salmon to guide the budget process, said White Salmon will finish 2007 in the black.
Brending explained that was possible because the city received a large amount of property tax income in November. The city also transferred money from White Salmon's various reserve funds to cover budget shortfalls.
"It's not pretty and it's not fun," Brending said. "It is what it is."
During the council session, White Salmon Public Works Director Mike Wellman pledged that his department would do all it could to hold the line on the new budget and keep costs as low as possible for 2008.
"We're cutting back our overtime to zippo," Wellman said. "We're trying to step up in the areas we can; do things ourselves and look at every cost."
In other significant cutbacks forced by the need to bring the budget into balance, the city canceled plans to buy a new garbage truck, canceled a contract for janitorial services, and eliminated the purchase of a command vehicle for the Fire Department.
Dietsch said the city was cutting costs in many areas.
"We took out over $300,000 from the budget," she explained. "That's a tremendous cut."
The City Council voted 5-0 to approve the 2008 budget.
However, it was clear that city officials expected to keep a close eye on expenditures and amend the budget as necessary.
City Council member Timi Keene said she believed the budget should be reviewed and managed as time went on.
"I would hope that at the budget committee meeting we take a second look and have a further discussion of some of the items we didn't have the opportunity to fully discuss here," Keene said.
Mayor David Poucher supported Keene's suggestion.
"I agree. This is a work in progress," Poucher said. "We will look at the budget on a monthly basis. We need to be correcting problems as we go. This is not just a yearly event. This document is alive, not static until September."
After the meeting, Poucher said he was relieved to have the 2008 budget in place.
"It's not perfect, but I truly believe we are going to open it and amend it and make it better and better," he said.