Commissioners Eye Affordable Housing Project, Budget Updates

If you caught this morning’s 8:00 a.m. segment of KBBK’S Coffeetalk, you know that a significant chunk of change related to affordable housing was on today’s commissioners’ agenda. Specifically, a letter of commitment to Shelter Resources Inc., committing $250K from the Affordable Housing funds to support a 96 unit project in south Aberdeen was on the commissioners’ afternoon docket. The item generated some interesting discussions initiated by Commissioner Vickie Raines in the morning meeting.

Emphasizing that she supports the project, Raines voiced concerns over the process in which the matter came to the Board of County Commissioners. “I think the housing project itself is a great project,” she explained. “It’s the process I have concerns with.”

Saying she had “questions on the affordable housing fund and the homeless fund,” Raines suggested postponing the item as it appeared on today’s afternoon agenda until she has more time to review the matter. She said she had set up several meetings with different players involved. 

Commissioner Randy Ross said he’s already had those conservations and saw no issues. He suggested the commission move forward.

Raines replied that she hasn’t yet had a chance to have those conversations and would like to do so before taking action or making a decision on the matter. She said the Health Director has concerns about the use of CAP funds per the program and reporting back to the department on how those funds will be used. 

“Our (county) money is not for the project , but for the utility portion,” clarified Raines. She said she didn’t think there’s a need to commit the county to a project “that’s not going to go through this year,” noting that the process has yet to be completed properly. Raines suggested postponing the matter “until some additional questions are answered.”

Ross moved to approve the item at this afternoon’s meeting with the caveat that tax credits involved should be for the 2017 grant cycle. Commissioner Cormier seconded. Raines said she had her questions answered in the interim by the prosecutor, but abstained from the vote because she had committed to doing so this morning.  The item was approved with Ross’s caveat. (The original letter of support did not designate it was for the 2017 grant cycle.)

Funds for the project are not coming out of the county general fund. They’re from Affordable Housing and Homeless Housing funds collected via surcharges on county recording fees. 

Cormier clarified, “This is a CCAP project, not a county project.” County money is for items not covered by the Housing Trust Fund grant, like street improvements and utilities.

Budget Director Brenda Sherman presented an update on the County General Fund, et. al., as of January 31, 2017. She noted that three departments are in “ouchieville” at present: the Auditor’s Office, Facilities Services, and Public Defense. This is largely due to bills from last year “floating over” into 2017.

General fund changes to 2017 budgeted revenue and expenditures are on the radar. Five changes in appropriations include election costs carried over from  2016 ($61,160), transfer of one time sales tax to software replacement reserve ($25K), additional E911 fees for fire districts ($800), WSU extension remaining balance from prior year on Neilson project ($2,804), and domestic violence distribution for revenue collected in 2015 and 2016 ($2,316). The changes in appropriations total about $67K.

Salaries and benefits account for the bulk of the county general fund, at 72%. Services represent 20%.

Now. Go outside. Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts!