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Columbia County examines budgets as COVID-19 curtails revenue

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Columbia County Commissioners Office

Columbia County Commissioners Office in Dayton.

DAYTON— Department budgets will be assessed by the Columbia County Board of Commissioners on Monday as officials look for ways to offset financial losses from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Columbia County commissioners office will remain closed to the public during the quarantine period. To attend the meeting go to ubne.ws/columbiacountycomissioners on Monday at 9 a.m.

County Treasurer Carla Rowe said decreasing revenues have commissioners searching for ways to overcome the growing expenses.

“... That’s why they are asking for some budget amendments and reductions to take place,” Rowe said.

County Auditor Anne Higgins said operating costs have risen to accommodate social distancing practices in county offices.

“There’s been a modification to employees’ work schedules, but employees still get paid,” she said.

Columbia County commissioners are asking every department where they might be able to cut back.

“Our reserve will probably go down a little bit,” Commissioner Mike Talbott said. “We are not forcing anything, just asking all departments if they have any money to spare.”

One area facing challenges is roadwork. The county is losing about 40% of fuel tax from the state, Rowe said.

“We are looking at sales tax reduction, of course, because consumers have not been able to buy freely,” she said.

She said about 15% of sales tax revenue from the state is driven by construction

“So with construction being shut down, we know that we are going to lose that 15% for a time period,” she said.

The county is applying for federal and state grants to offset some of the financial impacts they will face with the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Even though we’ve got the COVID-19 situation, we’ve still got some flood damage too,” Rowe said.

Navigating both emergencies and their financial impacts is “a little bit of a challenge,” she said.

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Chloe LeValley can be reached at chloelevalley@wwub.com or 509-526-8326.

Chloe LeValley covers the cities of Walla Walla and College Place as well as agriculture and the environment in the Walla Walla Valley. She is a graduate of San Francisco State University and joined the Union-Bulletin's team in October 2019.