WHATCOM COUNTY COUNCIL

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					     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1                            WHATCOM COUNTY COUNCIL
 2                  Finance and Administrative Services Committee
 3
 4                      PROPOSED 2003 WHATCOM COUNTY BUDGET
 5
 6                                     October 21, 2002
 7
 8         The meeting was called to order at 9:15 a.m. by Committee Chair Sam
 9   Crawford in the Council Committee Room, 311 Grand Avenue, Bellingham,
10   Washington.
11
12         Present:                                       Absent:
13         Dan McShane                                    None
14         Sharon Roy
15
16         Also Present:
17         Seth Fleetwood
18         Barbara Brenner
19
20
21       DISCUSSION OF THE COUNTY EXECUTIVE’S 2003 RECOMMENDED
22   BUDGET (COOPERATIVE EXTENSION, ASSESSOR, TREASURER, EXECUTIVE,
23   COUNCIL)(AB2002-370)
24
25          Dewey Desler, Deputy Administrator, gave introductory remarks. The budget
26   documents include the two budget volumes and more detailed information on
27   additional service requests (ASR’s). The administration will recommend some
28   adjustments.
29
30          The administration recommends $300,000 less in the general fund and $5
31   million less in the total County budget for the 2003 budget. Revenues continue to
32   be flat. They have to be more prudent and careful than usual. The administration
33   does not propose any staff reductions, only staff modifications. The administration
34   does recommend one additional new staff member in the Planning and
35   Development Services Department to work on the transfer of development rights
36   (TDR), purchase of development rights (PDR), and open space programs.
37
38          The County needs to work on the geographical information systems (GIS).
39   Existing staff can be moved around to work on it. The administration is proposing
40   adjustments to equipment and software.
41
42         The budget is balanced. They are using $1 million from the rainy day
43   reserve fund. It is a prudent thing to do at this point. This budget carefully
44   responds to the Council’s policy direction given in June.
45




          Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 1
     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1         McShane stated he would like a public dialogue on the revenue streams.
 2   Desler stated the administration would put together a report of historical and
 3   projected revenue for the public hearing.
 4
 5
 6   COOPERATIVE EXTENSION
 7
 8          Craig MacConnell, Cooperative Extension, submitted information (on file).
 9   This last year, Cooperative Extension staff have evaluated the impacts of their
10   programs. Master gardeners have looked at lawns where pesticides have been
11   detected in the Lake Whatcom watersheds. The Lake Friendly Watershed Kit was
12   produced and distributed, which helped recipients change their attitudes and
13   practices to become more environmental.
14
15          Regarding commercial horticulture and integrated pest management (IPM),
16   raspberry growers have begun to use raspberry IPM methods instead of diazinon.
17   Regarding the Public Agriculture Weather System (PAWS), the automated weather
18   stations will allow them to develop pest models and improve irrigation
19   management. Cooperative Extension surveyed the master gardeners clients, who
20   are absorbing the information and changing their habits to be environmentally
21   appropriate.
22
23           Regarding nutrient management, they have to export nutrients to retain the
24   dairy industry in this county. Workshops have been hosted and a team has been
25   put together. Puget Sound Energy scientists are putting together a strategy so that
26   it will become a funding source for this effort. The Port of Bellingham will do a
27   marketing analysis on the fiber, which is the key to the economic success of this
28   effort.
29
30          The Family Living program focuses on strengthening families with children
31   using the 4H program and the Strengthening Families program for children and
32   youth, which decrease many serious child and parenting problems.
33
34          The Computer Wizards program is a partnership with the Whatcom Hispanic
35   Organization. There are two new Computer Wizards sites in Ferndale and the
36   Nooksack Valley School District Center for Children and Families. The program
37   brings together children and their parents so children can help with and teach
38   adults about technology.
39
40          The Farmers Growing Trees for Salmon is a program regarding salmon, the
41   Endangered Species Act (ESA), and watershed stewardship. There are 136
42   property owners who are raising trees for this program. The survival rate of these
43   trees is over 95 percent, while the survivor rate for other tree restoration projects
44   is normally 25 to 30 percent.
45
46           The Cooperative Extension website has over 8,000 page views and receives a
47   lot of attention.


          Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 2
     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1
 2         Forty-eight percent of Cooperative Extension program efforts are funded
 3   from the general fund. In the past five years, benefits and wages have increased
 4   22 percent. The administrative costs have gone up 68 percent. Operational costs
 5   have gone down 2.5 percent. Overall, general fund costs for Cooperative Extension
 6   are up 25 percent over five years, and the entire general fund has gone up by 30
 7   percent in the past five years. Cooperative Extension is less than one-half of one
 8   percent of the general fund. Cooperative Extension builds capacity in the
 9   community and helps people to solve their problems. That is not a bad investment
10   for one-half of one percent.
11
12        Crawford asked if MacConnell is an employee of Washington State University
13   (WSU). MacConnell stated he is now.
14
15          Crawford asked if there is a way to get more money out of WSU for these
16   projects. MacConnell stated that the way Cooperative Extension works, every
17   county pays an allocation per faculty member using the same formula as is used to
18   pay fees to the Washington State Association of Counties (WSAC). WSAC and WSU
19   reviewed the formula two years ago, and the recommendation was to leave it the
20   way it is. A position that is currently empty could become a jointly funded position.
21   If that happens, everyone has to pay less, because they would bring in a new
22   partner.
23
24          Crawford stated battling the western raspberry fruit worm is very important
25   to raspberry farmers. Cooperative Extension is involved in supporting raspberry
26   harvest long-term. He asked how the importance of that is rated against someone
27   raising potatoes in Eastern Washington, for example. MacConnell stated there is
28   collaboration in the IPM community, and he is bringing in other resources to help
29   with funding issues. That decision is made county by county, and is made based on
30   the infrastructure that is already in place within a county to make it happen. The
31   Whatcom County IPM program is asking for funding from the Washington Red
32   Raspberry Commission to work on the raspberry fruit worm. The work they are
33   doing here in Whatcom County affects other industries across the state. He is
34   asking the Commission to carry more of the cost to continue with the research.
35
36          Crawford asked why master composter volunteer hours dropped by half in
37   2002 from 2001. MacConnell stated it is difficult getting accurate volunteer hour
38   reporting. Every volunteer agency has this difficulty. That is why he focuses on
39   other performance indicators. He measures what people really do rather than
40   volunteer hours, which is a low-level indicator.
41
42          McShane asked why they have to pay increased tort insurance and
43   administrative costs. MacConnell stated the County needs to have its performing
44   components cover the cost of support. Cooperative Extension is a partnership,
45   each paying for different things. It’s difficult for him to spend his time lobbying and
46   explaining to the different paying entities how Cooperative Extension works.
47


          Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 3
     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1          McShane asked if Cooperative Extension dropped out of watershed education
 2   efforts. MacConnell stated Cooperative Extension hired a watershed educator to do
 3   watershed education. Because of immediate pressures of watershed planning, that
 4   employee was redirected to do non-educational efforts for Water Resource
 5   Inventory Area (WRIA) 1. That employee was taken out of Cooperative Extension
 6   and put into the Water Resources Division for two years. That employee will come
 7   back to Cooperative Extension and do more education at the end of two years.
 8
 9          Brenner stated she hoped that the Council will consider a ban on pesticide
10   use in the watershed. MacConnell stated the County doesn’t have the statutory
11   authority to regulate pesticides, only the State has that authority.
12
13
14   ASSESSOR
15
16         Keith Willnauer, Assessor, stated that one of the most important things the
17   Assessor’s Office is dealing with is providing information and support to government
18   agencies and the public. That includes maintaining the accuracy and integrity of
19   information and property inventories. He is spending a great amount of time
20   improving those functions. The Assessor’s Office is creating its own strategic plan
21   and keeping it consistent with the County strategic plan to have high quality public
22   support and services.
23
24         Roy asked if the Assessor’s Office collects fees to support its operation.
25   Willnauer stated it does not. It is not able to do that. The assessment function is
26   one that people are paying for when they pay their property taxes.
27
28         Roy asked what evaluating building permits involves. Willnauer stated the
29   Assessor’s Office is mandated to inspect all properties with building permits
30   attached to them. It is done annually.
31
32          Roy asked if increased building permit fees could benefit the Assessor’s
33   Office. Willnauer stated it would have to come from the general fund.
34
35         McShane asked about the drop in the projected cost of supplies. Willnauer
36   stated there was a onetime expenditure for a digital camera out of the supplies
37   budget. They switched from using 35 mm film to mitigate costs due to film
38   processing and to support the electronic imaging service.
39
40         Brenner stated there have been increases in real property parcels and new
41   construction dollars. She asked why the projected new construction valuation is
42   going down.
43
44         Crawford stated permit activity is 40 percent more than last year.
45
46         (Clerk’s Note: End of tape one, side A.)
47


          Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 4
     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1          Willnauer stated the assessment year function is for property taxes in the
 2   following year, and he is working with a cutoff date of July 31. The Assessor’s
 3   Office is working now on permits from last June to this June. His projections are up
 4   to respond to the increased amount of construction. He prefers to maintain a
 5   conservative projection. One major new construction, such as an industrial plant,
 6   can have a lot of impacts. Major commercial development can skew those numbers
 7   also. There has been a lot of activity going on at Cherry Point. The Assessor’s
 8   Office is not missing any new construction, and they are performing to the State
 9   standards, but there are things that skew the numbers, which is why he projects
10   the figures conservatively.
11
12           Brenner asked why the assessments are 40 percent less than the appraisals.
13   Willnauer stated that part of the audit control mechanism is to analyze the
14   relationship of assessed valuation to market value. It is done with a performance
15   evaluation procedure. The real property ratio has been in the neighborhood of 86
16   to 87 percent of market value. Being on a four-year reevaluation cycle and the
17   stability of the market affect the assessed figure. Uniformity is more important in
18   the appraisal process. He’s more interested in narrowing the uniformity so similar
19   properties with similar consistencies are similarly assessed.
20
21          Crawford asked how the increase in property values affects the revenue
22   stream. He assumes that increased property values would increase the revenue
23   stream. He asked the fiscal impact of increased property values and the lag time it
24   takes to realize that increase in the revenue stream. Willnauer stated property
25   value increases do not affect the revenue collected. Increasing assessed valuations
26   are a function of the market and do not increase the amount of taxes collected. As
27   the tax base broadens, then the tax rate falls. It is a function of how much money
28   the County collects. Assessed valuation really only determines the proportionate
29   share of the burden against other properties. How much someone pays is
30   determined by how much the County decides to collect. Properties that appreciate
31   faster than other properties pay more of a share of that amount collected. Property
32   value increases don’t increase the amount of revenue collected. New construction
33   is where the County gets more money. Those people building new construction are
34   paying on something that wasn’t there before.
35
36          Roy asked if an increase in new construction could make the individual
37   burden go down. Willnauer stated there is an addition of value relative to new
38   construction. The increased amount of revenue from new construction is to pay for
39   the increased costs of services to agencies due to that new construction.
40
41         Brenner asked how the County evaluates whether new construction is really
42   paying for the increased costs of services. She asked if there is a formula. Desler
43   stated they don’t have time to discuss it now.
44
45         McShane stated he works in the Assessor’s Office often. It is a great office.
46
47


          Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 5
     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1   TREASURER
 2
 3          Barbara Cory, Treasurer, stated the mission is billing and collecting of many
 4   kinds of taxes and fees and investing those monies. There are two funds that pay
 5   for the services. All of the participants in the investment pool pay for the cost of
 6   that service. The fees for the investment pool are the highest in the state. She is
 7   concerned about that. The County benefits from having districts participate.
 8   Twenty-five percent of her salary was charged to the investment pool. Other
 9   counties charged from ten to fifteen percent of the Treasurer’s salary. She asked
10   the administration to budget less of the Treasurer’s salary to the investment pool.
11   The administration recommended that they only fund 50 percent of the reduction
12   for the first year. However, State law requires that the Treasurer’s Office only
13   charge for the actual expenses of operating the pool. Once they’ve identified that
14   the Treasurer is not providing 25 percent of the Treasurer’s services to the pool,
15   she can’t phase in the change over a period of time. She asked that the Council
16   fund the entire portion. The County Council would have to add $6,200 more to the
17   Treasurer’s budget.
18
19           Desler stated that since the budget was developed and submitted, the
20   administration realized that it would be appropriate to support the request to
21   reduce the percentage of the Treasurer’s salary paid by the investment pool to ten
22   percent, which would require that they increase the Treasurer’s budget from the
23   general fund by $6,200. The investment pool includes the County, all the special
24   districts, and the Whatcom Transportation Authority (WTA).
25
26          Cory stated she had requested $50,000 annually for a maintenance contract
27   with CompuTech, which the administration denied. She is concerned with the
28   Assessor/Treasurer database. The program has not changed since 1983. A
29   number of districts are looking at doing special assessments, which the Treasurer’s
30   Office will have to collect. Water District 10 will soon turn over its assessment role
31   to the Treasurer’s Office for collection. She asked the administration for
32   improvements to the system for the local improvement district (LID) programs,
33   which has been improved. However, she has an overall concern about maintenance
34   of the database. The administration is spending substantially more on other major
35   systems in the County. The County needs to support the system. The system
36   adequately does what they need to do, but they can become more efficient if the
37   administration is willing to support and maintain the system. If the County doesn’t
38   support the system, the County will have to buy a new system at a cost of $1
39   million to $2 million.
40
41           Brenner asked if the County could require the taxing districts to pay a
42   proportional amount of those costs. Cory stated the County is not allowed to
43   charge districts for those fees. There has always been an understanding that the
44   districts support the system in a way because the County receives all the interest
45   and penalties that it collects on property taxes. That has always been the offsetting
46   amount. The County receives about $1.6 million annually in penalties and interest.
47


          Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 6
     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1          As an elected official, she is held accountable to the taxpayers for the
 2   integrity of the system. However, under the County Charter she must rely on
 3   another department that is not responsible to maintain that system. It causes
 4   problems in the Treasurer’s Office. For example, the Treasurer’s Office identified a
 5   serious security breach a couple of years ago. The County needs to keep the
 6   system secure and do strategic planning for the system. The Information Services
 7   Division is doing a good job keeping the system hardware running and making sure
 8   information is backed up. However, there is very little support in planning and
 9   making sure the system stays efficient. She submitted information on what the
10   $50,000 annual maintenance contract would provide (on file).
11
12          Desler stated it is important to make some improvements to the system at
13   some point. The County has a good relationship with CompuTech. The Information
14   Services Division is assigned to develop a planning strategy next year for the
15   Assessor and Treasurer. The administration is not proposing anything for this
16   budget because the planning strategy is not ready. Security is the highest priority.
17   The County should not build something around the needs of individual departments,
18   but should review what the entire system should have for all departments’ security
19   and privacy needs. That review is going on right now. A set of recommendations
20   will come forward from the administration.
21
22          Crawford asked if there is a turf war going on with the Information Services
23   Division’s purview of the systems in the Treasurer’s Office. He asked if the
24   Information Services Division could solve these problems. Desler stated
25   Information Services could, but it is overwhelmed because there are not enough
26   resources in the division to serve all of its customers.
27
28         (Clerk’s Note: End of tape one, side B.)
29
30          Cory stated she wrote a letter to the administration two years ago, and has
31   not received a response. She has not been told that anything is happening. She is
32   attempting to push things forward. This is a very important system to the County
33   and all the taxing districts. It needs to be higher on the list of priorities.
34
35         McShane stated it sounds like the Information Services Division is
36   beleaguered and not able to respond to this real need. He needs to get more
37   information from the Information Services Division.
38
39         Desler stated Moss Adams and the State Auditor are doing a study on the
40   countywide computer security and privacy needs.
41
42          Cory stated she respectfully disagreed with the way the administration is
43   doing the administration cost allocations. She brought her disagreement to the
44   administration’s attention two years ago without any response. The cost she is
45   being charged for film development is outrageous. She’s asked the administration
46   to review the cost, but she is still being charged an outrageous amount. There are
47   other similar outrageous charges, such as those for computer support.


          Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 7
     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1
 2          Brad Bennett, Finance Division Manager, stated the administration cost
 3   allocation is indirect, so there is no easy way to charge it. It is an average, not
 4   based on specific costs. The microfilming charges were brought to his attention
 5   recently, and fixing that problem is scheduled for 2003. The administration doesn’t
 6   adjust administrative cost allocations every year so it can keep things consistent.
 7
 8          Brenner stated that method punishes departments that have fewer costs and
 9   rewards departments that have more expenses. Bennett stated the administrative
10   cost allocation is addressed. If there is an increase to the administrative cost
11   allocation, the administration generally doesn’t make the departments take the
12   increase from other places.
13
14          Desler stated this is County money that is given to the departments for their
15   use of the administrative services fund. It is a method of distributing the costs.
16
17          Brenner stated the administration should not treat the individual
18   departments in that way. She asked if there is any way to go into each department
19   to see what it is using and what it needs so cost averaging doesn’t overcharge
20   departments.
21
22          Cory stated she has to justify her budget to the public, and the costs need to
23   be reasonable. The cash balance in the administrative services fund is over $7
24   million as of last week. Even though she doesn’t know completely what that
25   balance is made up of, it still seems like an unreasonably high balance.
26
27          McShane asked if supply costs have anything to do with actual expenditures.
28   It seems that it has nothing to do with what is actually being spent. Bennett stated
29   that ASR’s would cause fluctuations in departmental graphs. The administration
30   will not object to any close fluctuations. It’s important to have a good idea of
31   whether or not they are covering costs that are associated with fees for services.
32
33        Brenner stated they need to look at whether the cost is fair to begin with or if
34   someone can do the service less expensively.
35
36
37   EXECUTIVE
38
39        Desler stated the budget remains the same for this year. He anticipates a
40   modest decrease in expenditures.
41
42          Crawford asked about the Executive’s public relations budget item. Desler
43   stated the Executive devotes a fair amount of time to a lot of public issues. Several
44   of the Executive’s Office objectives are related to that budget item.
45
46         Crawford read the description of the public services objective of the
47   Executive’s Office.


          Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 8
     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1
 2         Brenner stated public service is something that they all do.
 3
 4          Crawford asked if any of the other elected officials has a public relations
 5   component with an expense attached to it. Desler stated they all have a public
 6   relations aspect to their jobs. The Executive is proud to indicate that public service
 7   is one of the elements that he does.
 8
 9          Brenner stated public service is about how they do what they do, not a
10   specific thing they do.
11
12           Roy stated she was not in favor of that item previously because she had felt
13   that it was a “public relations” item, which is not necessary. At the time, she
14   questioned whether they needed to spend money on public relations. However, the
15   Executive is the spokesperson for the County, and more of his job than anyone else
16   is devoted to public service. She is opposed to actual expenditures for public
17   relations. She asked if the County is spending money on anything considered
18   traditional public relations. Desler stated it is part of the role of the Executive.
19   Public service is an appropriate service to include.
20
21         Crawford asked how the Executive can make expenditures with no
22   consultation of the Council. Desler stated there is a $50,000 fund for the Executive
23   to use on high priority items that come up.
24
25         Brenner stated she would like to know what the public services money has
26   been spent on. Desler stated he would provide that information.
27
28
29   COUNCIL
30
31          Dana Brown-Davis, Clerk of the Council, stated she requested money for the
32   Hearing Examiner’s Office. In the last few years, the Council budget has not had to
33   pay building maintenance fees for building rental for the Hearing Examiner. This
34   year, they need to pay almost $11,000 for space rental and $5,800 for building
35   maintenance fees, including additional money for a copier. The District Court office
36   donated office space to the Hearing Examiner previously, but is no longer.
37
38          Brenner suggested that the Hearing Examiner’s Office be moved into the
39   County Council offices. Brown-Davis stated there could be an appearance of
40   fairness issue because the Council hears appeals of the Hearing Examiner’s
41   decisions.
42
43          Desler stated that the Council budget will contribute to the bond payment of
44   the Civic Center Building.
45
46          Brenner stated she preferred to put the Hearing Examiner in the Council
47   Office rather than make that payment.


          Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 9
     DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
     minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
     are not the final approved minutes.

 1
 2          Crawford stated the $1,500 per month rent includes the cost of the copier. It
 3   is a competitive cost for rent and a copier.
 4
 5         (Clerk’s Note: End of tape two, side A.)
 6
 7         Brenner stated she’s not thinking that it’s an unfair cost, but she just doesn’t
 8   want to pay it.
 9
10         Brown-Davis stated she is hoping to save $4,000 on public notices next year.
11   She doesn’t want to decrease the advertising budget at this time, but there is a
12   possible savings that might occur.
13
14         Desler stated it might be possible to include a link to the County website in
15   the public notices, and reduce the sizes of the notices.
16
17         Brenner stated the public notice requirement is a legal mandate.
18
19        Crawford asked if it is possible to provide a more detailed level of
20   expenditures in the County Council Office.
21
22         McShane stated the County Council doesn’t have a discretionary fund.
23
24         Desler stated there could be an accounting of the cost of each of the
25   inventory of services.
26
27         Crawford stated he’s trying to hold the Council Office to the same
28   accountability as the Executive’s Office.
29
30         Brown-Davis stated she could provide detailed budget information.
31
32
33   ADJOURN
34
35         The meeting adjourned at 11:43 a.m.
36
37
38   ______________________________
39   Jill Nixon, Minutes Transcription
40
41
42   ATTEST:                                       WHATCOM COUNTY COUNCIL
43                                                 WHATCOM COUNTY, WASHINGTON
44
45
46
47   ______________________________                ___________________________


         Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 10
    DISCLAIMER: This document contains the Whatcom County Council or Committee
    minutes, as approved. However, unless an attested signature page is attached, they
    are not the final approved minutes.

1   Dana Brown-Davis, Council Clerk              Sam Crawford, Committee Chair




        Finance and Administrative Service Committee - 2003 Budget, 10/21/02, Page 11

				
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