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Budget Cuts May Doom Pool

City battles deficit

By JESSE BURKHARDT

The Enterprise

Despite long months of effort and substantial expenses in repairing and upgrading the White Salmon swimming pool, it appears as if budget realities are going to force the city to close the popular pool for 2010.

By not opening the pool next year, the city projects that it would save $40,000.

The pool is not the only item on the city Budget Committee's chopping block. Also recommended for cutting are maintenance of city parks ($40,000 savings); reducing purchases of firefighting equipment and training for firefighters ($40,000); canceling the planned contracting of a part-time animal control officer ($15,000); and draining the emergency reserve fund to help with budgetary needs elsewhere ($50,000).

Even with these big cutbacks, however, the city's remaining deficit is penciled out as still facing a sizable deficit for 2010.

"We're short $58,000," explained Mayor David Poucher. "You can finagle $2,000 or so, but when it's up to $58,000, you have to have a lockdown. And our reserve is gone, so there is nothing in the hopper for an emergencies."

Poucher added that he doesn't understand how the deficit is still so large. He pointed out that the city's Public Safety Officer, Rich Cortese, is retiring -- which will save the city $130,000 in salaries and benefits for 2010 -- and the city has made cuts elsewhere totaling almost $200,000.

"I just don't understand it," Poucher said. "I have a hard time figuring out how we're so far down. We've closed the pool and made $200,000 of cuts. Throw all that in, and it doesn't calculate."

"We're still spending more than we're bringing in," noted City Council member Leana Johnson during Monday evening's Budget Committee meeting.

City Treasurer Lori Kreps explained that sales tax revenues are down, and state-generated revenues have been reduced by almost $100,000 for 2010.

"We're going to have to beg for grants," said White Salmon Fire Chief Bill Hunsaker.

Hunsaker added that he expects his department to turn to the Klickitat County Economic Development Authority for help in providing equipment and training in 2010.

"But even that grant is not guaranteed," Hunsaker noted.

For its part, the Bingen-White Salmon Police Department has delayed hiring a new police officer for six months -- until July 1 -- to gain cost savings. And the expected contract with the same animal control officer that serves Goldendale and Bingen has had to be canceled.

Perhaps the most visible of the cuts, however, is the city's pool. Many volunteers, service organizations, and city employees have poured time and money into fixing and enhancing the pool, and hundreds of kids take advantage of having a fun, safe place to swim every summer. If it has to be closed, it will be a very unpopular decision.

"Will the pool be open? Right now, it's not [in the budget]," Poucher explained. "Unless the council goes with an interfund loan. Our priorities have to be law enforcement and water works and firefighting."

As bad as the 2010 budget picture seems to be for White Salmon, Poucher said he was worried things could get even worse in the future.

"It's going to be horrible next year if we lose Insitu," he warned.

The city's 2010 budget needs to be finalized by the end of the year.

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