County GOP opposes proposed sales tax for juvenile facilities

Matthew Rainwater

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Republican Party came out this week against a proposed sales tax increase that would support the county’s Juvenile and Family Services facility.

“The CCRP believes in the great work being done by the employees at the Juvenile Detention Center, and fully supports their tireless efforts to make a difference in the troubled youth in the program,” Matthew Rainwater, chairman of the party, said in an email. “However, we feel it is incumbent upon the county to not use a tax increase to try to solve budgetary issues.”

The party adopted a resolution Monday against the proposed 0.1 percent sales tax increase that will appear on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The tax would provide an estimated $1.1 million to support the facility.

The Clallam County Juvenile and Family Services Department operates at an annual loss of between $1 million and $2 million.

In 2017, the department budgeted for $1.25 million in revenue and $3.14 million in expenses for a general fund burden of $1.89 million.

The county is facing a $1.8 million structural deficit in the 2018 preliminary roll-up budget, though officials have said the county only needs to cut about $500,000 to balance the budget.

As the county works to balance its budget, County Administrator Jim Jones has asked department heads to collectively look for $1 million in cuts before their requests are considered.

Rainwater wrote that the party recognizes that providing juvenile services is largely an unfunded mandate from the state but said a tax increase should be the last resort and shouldn’t take the place of making hard decisions.

“We call upon our elected state legislators to recognize the problem they have placed upon all the counties and to look toward finding a fix,” he said.

“At minimum, they should fully fund the legislative burdens they place on local governments.”

Though the party doesn’t support the proposed sales tax, he called the Juvenile and Family Services facility “by all accounts the best in Washington state.

“We commend all those that have worked tirelessly to accomplish this.”

The Clallam County Democrats did not take a stance on the proposed tax.

Nancy Martin, vice chair for the Clallam County Democrats, said Clallam County Commissioner Mark Ozias and Juvenile and Family Services Administrator Pete Peterson plan to make a presentation on the proposal to the Clallam County Democrats on Wednesday.

The party’s chairman, Craig Ritchie, could not be reached by phone Wednesday.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.