Forks reviews 2024 draft budget

Half million in lodging tax requests

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Forks Chamber of Commerce request for $135,000 in lodging tax receipts was specifically for the operation of the Forks Visitor Center and tourism marketing, both done by the chamber for the city of Forks, said Lissy Andros, chamber executive director. The money is not going to day-to-day chamber operations.

FORKS — The Forks City Council will take another look at the 2024 draft budget at a workshop Monday before it votes for approval on Dec. 11.

Last Monday, the council reviewed the budget and half a million dollars of lodging tax requests.

Monday’s special meeting will be at 7:30 p.m. in council chambers at 500 E. Division St.

The city anticipated $12.4 million [12,398,964] in revenue for 2024 — about 78 percent more than in 2023. Most of the increase would come from grants, including a Federal Aviation Administration grant of $970,307 for upgrades at the Quillayute Airport. At its Nov. 13 meeting it approved a property tax increase of one percent that would allow it to collect about $400,000.

Among the draft budget expenses was $980,000 for the police department, which covers all operational expenses.

For the past month Police Chief Mike Rowley has been the five-person department’s only officer.

“We’re budgeted at a similar staff level as last year,” Rowley said. “We’re going to have to recruit and retain officers.”

The problem with staffing, Rowley said, was Forks Police Department salaries were not competitive with other area employers so it kept losing officers to places like Clallam Bay Corrections Center, which paid more.

The council did not discuss police department salaries at the workshop, although council member Juanita Weissenfels did say, “If we don’t pay our police more, we aren’t going to have any.”

The draft budget contained 24 requests for funds from revenue the city receives from lodging taxes. Through October it had collected $503,233.23, about 18 percent more than through the first 10 months of 2022. According to Washington state law, lodging tax revenues can only be used for marketing, advertising, special events and related expenses that attract and encourage tourism or business travel.

The Forks Chamber of Commerce led requests with $185,000 to support the Forks Twilight Festival ($35,000), the Forks Twilight Collection ($15,500) and chamber operations ($135,000).

The city’s request of $169,175 included support for the Old Fashioned 4th of July ($15,000); ball field improvements ($80,000) and the Rainforest Arts Center ($3,000).

Others requesting funds included the Forks Timber Museum ($35,000); the Peninsula Trails coalition ($3,000); the Piecemakers Quilt Club ($8,800); Raincon! ($2,000); the Rainforest Council for the Arts ($1,500) and West End Thunder ($12,222).

A number of representatives of organizations that had received support last year said the funds had been extremely helpful in raising the visibility of their activities and Forks.

Chamber Executive Director Lissy Andros told council members this year’s Forever Twilight in Forks Festival sold out in two hours and the Forever Twilight Collection at the Rainforest Arts Center had registered a record number of visitors.

“Whatever we’re doing it’s working,” Andros said. “We were open seven days a week this year and at capacity every day we were open. We’re thinking of adjusting to be open an hour later to accommodate everyone that we can.”

Tom Rosemond of the Forks Timber Museum said 2022 was the first time it had attracted 10,000 visitors and it anticipated meeting that number again this year.

“About one percent who visit are from around here,” Rosemond said. “We think that’s a good indicator that we’re getting the word out.”

At the regular council meeting that followed the workshop Public Works Director Paul Hampton said a water leak detection plan the department put in place had saved millions of gallons of water. Hampton said the savings meant that unlike other cities, Forks did not have to implement water restrictions over the summer.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at Paula.Hunt@peninsuladailynews.com

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