Voters decide Levy lift to maintain Whitman County level of services

PULLMAN, WA - In February, every registered voter in Whitman County will have the chance to approve or deny a levy lift for 2015.

Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains why elected officials are asking for the taxpayer's support in order to keep the county running.

"I think it's up to the voters to decide the level of service they want us to provide for them," said Whitman County Treasurer Bob Lothspeich.

Whitman County has been battling a decline in revenue for years.

"Really since 2008, since we went into the recession the county has started to see declining revenues," said Lothspeich.

Lothspeich said Washington's Initiative 747 also contributes to the strain on the budget because it only allows the county to increase property taxes by one-percent annually.

"It's hurt all counties in the state, in a big way," said Lothspeich.

Elected officials tell KLEW News that balancing the 2014 budget was difficult for department heads

"Our reserves of cash have diminished," said Lothspeich.

"The larger the department, that have more people, have a greater impact, the Sheriff's department particularly," said Whitman County Coroner Pete Martin.

"You can only cut so much before you get into people, and we've had to do that," said Whitman County Sheriff Brett Myers. "And so we already notified one deputy that he won't have a job during the 2014 year."

That's why in February, every registered voter in the county will be asked to decide on a levy lid lift for 2015. It'll raise property taxes by 22-cents per thousand-dollars of assessed property value.

"It's basically a measure that maintains revenue and replenishes what we've lost," said Martin.

Elected officials said that if it doesn't pass, the county will likely have to start cutting employees.

"We're right at bare bones," said Lothspeich. "We're cut as low as you can go without dipping into the employee base."

Cuts in staffing will result in cuts in services, and Sheriff Brett Myers said that in his department, it's an issue of public safety.

"Even the reduction of one deputy sheriff or even one corrections officer will have a major impact on the services we can provide," said Myers.

And while the elected officials acknowledge that tax increases are never ideal, this levy would increase county revenues by about $745,000 for 2015.

"In order to maintain the quality of life that we've come to expect here in Whitman County, we feel that this is a modest request, but it's also a necessary request," said Myers.

The election date for this levy lift is February 11th. Tuesday, we'll tell you about another measure that some voters will see on their ballot, The Whitman County Library District Levy.