The White Salmon City Council on Oct. 19 put the finishing touch on its second 2011 budget amendment, but the decision included a catch of sorts.
City councilors last Wednesday enacted an ordinance that, among other things, increased expenditures in the Police Department budget from $673,140 to $818,260, and the Current Expense Fund bottom line to $1,927,840 from $1,851,259.
The catch involves how much the city of Bingen has indicated it will pay in 2011 to support the Police Department. Bingen contracts with White Salmon for police services under an interlocal agreement the parties amended in February and that will be in force through 2014.
In a letter dated Oct. 19, Bingen Mayor Betty Barnes informed White Salmon Mayor David Poucher and city councilors that her council was sticking to the $279,234 it authorized in May. The White Salmon budget proposal pegged Bingen's share for the year at $296,324 -- or 32 percent of costs, as Bingen agreed to pay under the February contract addendum. The parties undertook the amendment because of the financial uncertainty over White Salmon's original 2011 budget.
After reviewing the proposed budget amendment during its Oct. 18 meeting, "The Bingen City Council voted to reiterate its position that the City of Bingen will provide $279,234 toward its share of the 2011 Bingen-White Salmon Police Department, including the department's share of Current Expense overhead costs." (Overhead: the general, continuing costs involved in operating a business, such as rent, utilities and maintenance.)
Percentage-wise, Bingen's stated position puts its contribution at 29.7 percent of the updated police budget. Moreover, Bingen is supposed to approve police budget revisions per the interlocal agreement for police services.
Bingen City Administrator Jan Brending said the city arrived at its bottom line in May in order "to allocate those funds so they couldn't be spent on anything else."
She added that the amount Bingen added to its annual contribution was "what we knew was the most likely scenario for the budget" in light of the additional personnel costs that the cities expected to pay as a result of underfunded obligations like overtime and a new collective bargaining agreement with city police officers.
Leana Johnson, White Salmon's clerk/treasurer, told the City Council on Oct. 19 that, due to the lateness of the budget amendment, she needed to start implementing the police union contract the council ratified on Oct. 11, and make other adjustments such as the transfer of $1,932 from the Water Fund to the newly established Water Acquisition Fund.
"My recommendation is to pass the budget amendment as proposed or we are going to start running out of (authorized) funds to pay for what we're required to under the approved agreement," Johnson said.
She added, "The budget is where it's at -- $818,000 -- and that's what it's going to cost unless you make some drastic cuts in personnel, and staff has not been directed to look at that." (Brending noted that this summer Bingen asked White Salmon to consider budget cuts "because of our concern that the costs would continue to grow.")
To make up the rougly $17,000 difference between Bingen's authorized contribution and White Salmon's anticipated costs, Johnson advised the council it could allocate money from next year's beginning Current Expense Fund balance.
"We will not go into the red if we have to pay the extra $17,000," Johnson noted, "but the beginning fund balance would drop from $53,000 to $36,000."
The motion to adopt the budget amendment passed 4-0, with councilors Clyde Knowles, Adrian Bradford, Bob Landgren and Mark Peppel voting in favor. Councilor Ricky Marx abstained, but only after earlier offering his take on the police budget and interlocal agreement: "Maybe we should have them pay up front at the beginning of the year so at the end of the year, we're in control."
At the outset of the discussion, Bradford asked City Attorney Ken Woodrich if White Salmon has legal recourse for enforcing the 32 percent rate Bingen agreed to in February.
Woodrich declined to offer an opinion, saying he would want to study the contract and give his advice in executive session. He pointed out, however, that if the cities can't come to agreement on their own, mediation is the next step.