The Odessa Record -

By Rob Coffman
Lincoln County Commissioner 

Happenings around Lincoln County

 
Series: Commissioners Corner | Story 2

February 21, 2019



The year 2018 was a good one for Lincoln County! We saw a spike in various sources of revenue that resulted in a higher than expected cash balance at the end of the year. Most of the increases were from sales tax, investment interest and jail revenue. While we saw increases from several sources, revenue from divorce filings, previously the third largest source of revenue for the county, continued its steady decline. We have gone from processing 4,542 divorces in 2008 to just over 2,100 in 2018. This has been a huge loss of revenue to the county over the last 10 years.

The extra cash to end the year with was a good thing because it allowed us to maintain our current level of service in the 2019 budget without having to cut expenses (read people). We were able to use some of that cash to balance the budget while still maintaining a modest reserve. Hopefully, this trend continues. Problem is, most of these revenue streams are historically unpredictable, making budgeting difficult at best (preaching to the businessman’s choir, I know!).

The only really stable source of revenue is the property tax. (And, by the way, the recent voter-approved 3/10 of one percent Public Safety Sales Tax has proven very beneficial in offsetting expenses in the Sheriff’s Office, as well as the Prosecutor’s Office. It will definitely help maintain the current level of service into the future.) Even though property tax revenue is stable, it is limited to one percent growth per year as a result of Initiative-747. Expenses typically grow at around 3 to 5 percent per year, mostly due to inflation, contractual employee cost-of-living increases and rising liability insurance premiums. This scenario results in a “structural gap,” where expenses grow faster than revenues, requiring local governments to become more reliant on beginning cash to balance the next year’s budget. Too many years of relying on unanticipated revenue or “cash” depletes available reserves when a downturn in the economy happens. We budget these unstable revenues conservatively and keep our fingers crossed that they continue their current trend.

In other news, we have several road projects on the books for 2019 that include finishing the Old Coulee Road project. The contractor completed his work last fall and it has been a gravel surface through the winter. Our own awesome county road crews will apply the final paved surface this summer.

The last phase of the Rocklyn Road project, a two-mile stretch between Church Road and Kruger Road, is also slated to be completed this summer, also by our own crews.

The Old Sprague Highway and Duck Lake-Lamona Road will both have several miles of asphalt overlay applied.

Last but not least, the project we’ve all been waiting for, the Porcupine Bay Road landslide repair, should be completed in early summer. That project was delayed last fall when a second landslide occurred, halting construction for over a month while engineers figured out how to proceed. Since construction has resumed, crews are making good progress! The second wall should be completed in a matter of weeks. Check out the Public Works webpage at http://www.co.lincoln.wa.us/public-works for current updates on the project as well as other road information

The recent rounds of winter storms have kept our road crews busy trying to keep the roads open. That has been challenging due to the powerful winds, drifting snow and poor visibility. Please join me in expressing thanks and gratitude to our Public Works folks as well as all of our Lincoln County employees. They do a great job every day of meeting the needs of the public that we are all here to serve!

 

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