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Brown, Burlingame on veterans levy proposal

July 15th, 2011 by Chris Henry

Following publication of a story July 5 on a proposed property tax levy to aid Kitsap’s veterans and non-veteran homeless, I heard from Abby Burlingame, who challenged Kitsap County’s actions related to its Veterans Assistance Fund over the past two years.

Burlingame, who ran against incumbent Commissioner Josh Brown in 2010, said, “During the campaign I raised concerns that the county was borrowing money from that fund to balance their budget. I would like to know if they paid it back. Was that question asked during your interview? If that question was not asked, I would like to know why not.”

I did not ask that question as I interviewed Brown for the recent article. But in response to Burlingame’s questions, I called Brown last week and a got a few answers to some questions she raised.

First, a little background. The county under state law collects and distributes money on behalf of indigent veterans. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not much, 1 and 1/8 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. But before 2006, the county didn’t have a systematic way of getting the money to veterans. That was done informally, through the local Veterans of Foreign Wars.

“By 2005, over $1 million had accrued in the fund because it had been spending less than what it had been taking in,” said Leif Bentsen, who works for the county part-time coordinating the Veterans Assistance Program.

The fund was then handled by the auditor’s office. In 2006 the board of county commissions assumed authority of the fund and turned the administration over to the department of personnel & human services. In December 2006, under the same state law, the Kitsap County Veterans Advisory Board was created.

“When my department took it over,” said Bentsen, “we realized that 1) having the money sitting in the bank wasn’t helping veterans; and 2) many vets-in-need were slipping through cracks under the previous system. Part of the problem was that the majority of veterans didn’t know that it even existed, including myself until I was given the responsibility of overseeing it and organizing the new board.”

By 2009, as the recession was raging full blast, the veteran’s fund still was underspent. It had a balance of $900,000 and the program that year had a projected budget of about half that amount. The county technically didn’t “borrow” money from the fund, but state law allows local governments to lower the amount collected when the balance in the fund exceeds the total amount that could be collected, in this case, $320,000 in 2009.

“It allows us to take that $320,000 and apply it to our general fund program, 70 percent of which is criminal justice,” Brown said at the time. “If we didn’t dip into these reserves this one time, we would need to cut another $320,000 from the general fund.”

That’s because the county is limited as to how much it can raise taxes in any given year to 1 percent over the previous year (not counting new construction). The net effect, as Burlingame points out, was $320,000 less for the veterans fund and $320,000 more for the general fund.

This February, Brown backed proposed legislation that would have separated the veterans fund levy from the general fund levy. The effect, said Brown and legislators who supported the bill, would be to eliminate competition between the two funds. With the veterans fund tax as a stand-alone, there would be no more of the push-me-pull-you syndrome. Money for veterans could be collected and the county could collect the equivalent $320,000, or whatever it would be in that year, for the general fund. And if you said that amounts to a tax increase, you are correct.

Burlingame wanted to know why, if the veterans fund was so flush that the county could tap it in 2009, there is now a proposal on the table to implement a separate levy specifically for homeless vets and other homeless people. Revenue from the levy would be split 50/50 between vets and non-vets. Advisory boards for each group would make recommendations about allocation of funds.

She also wanted to know, now that the veterans are apparently in such dire need, if the county intends to replenish the $320,000.

“The reason I mention this is not to have any kind of vindication on the issue, it is because our budget is in serious jeopardy,” Burlingame wrote to me in an email. “Our county commissioners continually make contradictory statements regarding the condition of our budget and The Sun allows them to gloss over the ramifications of those choices. While reporters may recognize these transfers of money when they happen, they never address how those previous decisions end up affecting people like the veterans in the future. They never attach responsibility to the politicians who made the decision and said everything would be fine.”

So here are the questions I asked Brown, with his responses.

- In 2009 the board eliminated collections to the Veterans Assistance Fund for one year. Do you feel any sense of responsibility for the fact that the county’s veterans assistance program expenses now exceed revenues?

“I guess I don’t look at it that way,” said Brown, who elaborated at length about the context in which that decision was made.

In the first place, said Brown, the Veterans Assistance Fund was being underutilized when he took office in 2007. Informal distribution through the VFW worked in previous years, but as new generations of soldiers returned home from service, they did not so much connect with that organization. The goal of county officials when Brown arrived was to get the funds out into circulation on behalf of vets. Brown didn’t claim credit for the effort, but he did support it. His own family has military ties, and he is a strong supporter of veterans, he said.

“It’s been just a phenomenal success,” Brown said. “And today, we are helping many more vets than we did in the past.

That’s one of the reasons the fund balance is down. County and local social service workers became better at identifying and connecting with veterans in need.

“In a way we’re a bit of victims of our own success,” Brown said.

The second point of context was the state of the economy during late 2009, when the county and other public agencies were facing unprecedented funding shortfalls. Brown described revenues at the time as “a falling knife.”

“Sale tax revenues were dropping precipitously. We were dealing with a major financial crisis, not just as a nation but locally,” Brown said.

The board weighed the fact that the veterans fund had nearly $1 million, for a budget of around $400,000, as compared to what had been whittled down to a $4 million reserve in the in the general fund balance. To put that in context, county general fund revenues in 2007, when Brown took office, were about $86 million, he said. They’re now down to $78 million, and the reserve fund has been built up to $7 million. In 2009, the board of commissioners was worried about exhausting its reserve fund. So they chose to use the veterans fund to help balance the budget.

“This was not a decision the commissioners made lightly,” Brown said.

- Now that the economy has more or less stabilized (if not recovered) why wouldn’t the board consider reimbursing the veterans fund, as Burlingame has suggested, for the amount it was unable to collect in 2009, about $320,000?

Brown says that would be a stopgap measure. At the current rate of consumption, $320,000 would last about 8 months.

“I concede there’d be 8 more months of funds,” Brown said, but he denies the action taken in 2009 caused the problems the fund is having today.

Were the board to consider making the transfer, Brown said, it would force a choice between shoring up the veterans fund and cutting essential services, like law enforcement. In the long run, it would not solve the issue of sustainable funding for vets, Brown said.

The vets levy, however, has been successful in King County and Brown thinks it could help address the sustainability problem here. Although not openly endorsing the proposal, Brown said, he’s open to discussing its merits, despite the fact it involves the dreaded “T” word.

- The bill separating the veterans fund from the general fund would have prevented the board from making the budget shift in 2009. Earlier this year, you seemed to favor what you described as elimination of competition between the funds, and yet the law as it is helped you balance the budget in 2009. Can you comment on this apparent conflict?

Brown reiterated his goal, and the goal of county veterans advocates, is to provide sustainable funding for veterans. The bill, which didn’t make it out of committee, would have helped do so by protecting the fund from fluctuations in the general fund.

The bill would have allowed for a small — Brown emphasizes — tax increase, because the money now going to veterans would have been taken out of the general fund maximum in any given year, essential creating more taxing capacity. The impact to individual taxpayers would have been minimal, Brown said. For the owner of a $250,000 home, the 1 and 1/8 cents per $1,000 vets fund levy amounts to about $2.80 per year.

Had the law passed, said Brown, he would have pushed — and still may — for a “council-matic” increase in the vets levy. Brown suggested a penny per $1,000 increase, or an additional $2.50 per year on the same $250,000 home. That would generate about $300,000, which would have a substantial impact on the fund, Brown said, adding it’s the least we can do for our vets.

State of the Vets Fund

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23 Responses to “Brown, Burlingame on veterans levy proposal”

  1. Sharon O'Hara Says:

    “…The impact to individual taxpayers would have been minimal, Brown said….”

    Nonsense. Speak for yourself…no one has the right to say what is ‘minimal’ for someone else.

    To be entirely ‘fair’ – the plan would have been to increase sales tax across the board, not nail one group- homeowners to pay for the homeless.

    Why do you lump veteran ‘homeless’ to ‘regular’ homeless?

    “a “council-matic” increase in the vets levy. Brown suggested a penny per $1,000 increase, or an additional $2.50 per year on the same $250,000 home. That would generate about $300,000, which would have a substantial impact on the fund, Brown said, adding it’s the least we can do for our vets.”

    Use plain speak please. Do you mean just the homeless vets or do you mean ALL homeless and just call them ‘vets’?

    I don’t understand how you can continue to add more ‘tax’ to the backs of the taxpayers when so many are fighting to hold their heads above water?

    Perhaps the county commissioners will volunteer a pay cut to help support the programs they blithely expect the taxpayer to pick up.

    What percent of taxpayer support are you taking away from the dog parks during this challenging time? ….don’t bark at me folks!

  2. Stone Says:

    Fire Josh Brown. Fire the lot of them.

  3. Kathryn Simpson Says:

    So… We were not spending all the funding our tax collections for veterans assistance was bringing it. Thus, it was accumulating as “reserve”. Then, it sounds like that in 2009 the county did two things… Increased services to veterans and raided the veterans assistance reserve account to pay for non-veteran related services. Now, we are spending more on veteran services and some are suggesting we need a tax to make up the difference.

    My question is… Who gave permission for veteran services to exceed their revenue component? Apparently there was a revenue component for veterans services because it’s underuse had generated a cumulative reserve prior to 2009.

    Second question… Why should Kitsap taxpayers take a vote to to increase taxes for veterans services when management of existing veterans assistance funding has been so erratic and contradictory?

    Take the money that was supposed to be going to veterans assistance and use it for veterans assistance. Then, if you need funding, don’t raid the veterans assistance fund… Ask the voters to approve a tax for what you really dont have the money for… Whatever you were transferring the money out of the veterans assistance account to support instead.

    But dont come asking for money for veterans assistance when you have really had a funding stream for that all along… Except you used it for other things.

  4. Bob Meadows Says:

    Abby thinks there was a loan from the Veterans Assistance Fund to the General Fund? Bless her heart. She tries hard.

  5. roger2012 Says:

    It is magic. Funds are collected for one reason and spent for another, all at the whim of the County Commissioners. Now the Commissioners cry they need more funds after cooking the books. “The county under state law collects and distributes money on behalf of indigent veterans.” “The county technically didn’t “borrow” money from the fund, but state law allows local governments to lower the amount collected when the balance in the fund exceeds the total amount that could be collected, in this case, $320,000 in 2009. “It allows us to take that $320,000 and apply it to our general fund program,…” So if it was not “borrowed” where did the $320,000 collected come from? The tax is collected for veterans, not the general fund, it seems like if they do not put it in the veterans fund the tax should not be collected. Dare we say tax decrease?.

    Sounds like Olympia and our Commissioners have the rules written to allow this continual “magic” with the funds they collect from taxes. So really it does not matter what they say the tax increase is for, the funds will go to whatever the Commissioners decide. Bottom line, it was a tax increase, it was funds being used in a manner that was not within the expectations of those paying the tax.

    Now they want to increase taxes for even more the funds to be available so it gives the County Commissioners even more of a slush fund to push to the General fund when their budgeting incompetence shines again. What a deal for the taxpayer.

    I am all for helping Veterans. I see how our society has treated many of them over the years with poor followup care and services after their release from active duty. I know, I am one, and I have known many more that deal with many issues every day. Even with that I do not support the new taxes the County Commissioners are requesting. “…a proposal on the table to implement a separate levy specifically for homeless vets and other homeless people.”

    The County Commissioners can not effectively run the programs they have now. The brouhaw with the existing Veterans funding is a prime example. I do not give them the credit or ability to effectively manage another money source. Combining Veterans and non veteran homeless will result in more bureaucracy, more infighting, and less actual benefit to those in need. It will just give the Commissioners another fund to redistribute to the genera; budget as they see fit.

    Roger Gay
    South Kitsap

  6. Dean Jenniges Says:

    Why does the smoke and mirrors of the county financial status surprise anyone.
    Robing Peter to pay Paul is a Democratic resolution to hiding incompetent financial management by county commissioners.
    My first question is why in 2006 didn’t the county have a way to market their ability to help veterans?
    Even then to take the moneys specified for a specific program and pushing then into the general fund to look as if your a responsible governing commissioner is ludicrious. Then again what would you expect from a commissioner that had to go to court to prove his residency?

  7. micksheldon Says:

    People were surprised that I was surprised when I heard this , they expect government to do this. This is shamefully never the less. It highlights the over all problem with the deficit and government accountability . What is alarming to all of us that were talking about this is that it shows up on a blog. Would the Sun still endorse Brown ? If so will this be on a blog or on the front page next election . We see people promoting vets, using the homeless as political pawns while taking from them . Raising taxes not for them but in order to keep other government programs a float .
    This should be front page news. Why because it was brought up by the candidate who opposed Brown last election.

  8. TaxedEnough Says:

    Since this Vets money was specifically designated by RCW to be collected and used for a specific purpose, are the Commissioners guilty of breaking State law by using this money for unauthorized uses?

  9. Bob Meadows Says:

    In the coming years, if we want a veterans assistance program that spends three or four times as much each year as it had spent prior to 2008, we have to decide how to make the funding available.

    Since the revenue for the veterans assistance fund comes from the county’s “current expense” levy, a “lid lift” for that levy appears to be the way to make more funds available—if spending far more than we once did is what we want to do.

    Accusing county officials of raiding veterans assistance funds is not helpful—and it has the additional drawback of being entirely false.

    There is no “magic,” there was no “loan” (except in 1999, when a loan of $40,000 was made from the General Fund to the Veterans Relief Fund), and there was no “raid” on the funds designated for assisting indigent veterans.

    Each year, as they decide on the coming year’s budget and property tax levy amounts, the county commissioners have to decide among other things how much property tax revenue should go into the veterans assistance fund in the coming year.

    The county’s “current expense” levy provides revenue for the general fund and three other funds: the veterans assistance, mental health, and developmental disabilities funds.

    There is no “revenue component” that automatically puts revenue in the veterans assistance fund—it takes a decision by the commissioners.

    Once put into the veterans assistance fund, the money from the levy can be—and has only been—used for assisting indigent veterans.

    There has been no “raid” on the money in that fund.

    In 2009 the commissioners saw that the fund had almost a million dollars in it, and projected that the fund’s expenditures in the coming year would be approximately $450,000. The ending fund balance as of Dec. 31, 2009, was $951,775 according to the county’s audited annual financial report for 2009.

    State law only requires the commissioners to put more property tax revenue into the fund when the fund’s balance on September first is less than the amount that could be collected in the coming year by a tax rate of 1 and 1/8 cents per $1000 of assessed value.

    The veterans assistance fund balance had exceeded that threshold in every year since 2002.

    Rather than put more property tax revenue into a fund that had twice the money needed to meet projected expenditures in the coming year, the commissioners did as the law allows—and reason requires—by putting no new levy revenue into the fund during 2010.

    They took no money out of the fund.

    They simply didn’t put more into it in that year.

    That was lawful, appropriate, and reasonable.

    Putting more into that fund in 2010 would have been an insane thing to do, since “current expense” levy revenue that goes into the fund cannot be used to support any other county programs. General fund programs, such as law enforcement, needed that revenue in 2010—but the veterans assistance fund did not.

  10. ChrisTibbs Says:

    Yes the boards actions to reduce funding to the Veterans Funds was lawful, but moreover the question should be is it moral?

    Is it appropriate for our Commissioners to withhold assistance specifically designated for our Veterans? Is it reasonable that after our Commissioners choose to withhold this assistance that they declare their to be excess of monies in the Fund and then choose to defund monies in favor of the General Fund?

    My questions to the Board of Commissioners is why when we have Veterans in need, why would the County not make 100% of the Veterans Funds available for our Veterans?

    And yes Bob we should all “Bless Abby’s heart” for sparking this conversation. Abby is absolutely correct to question the actions of our Board. Actions that maybe legal, but do not qualify as moral.

  11. Kathryn Simpson Says:

    Bob,

    Seems to me that the ‘revenue component’ is/was the 1.125 cents per $1000 of valuation. That amount should be going into the Veterans Assistance Fund. That amound should be used to support Veterans assistance.

    I would agree with you that we ought to consider whether we want to spend far more than that revenue component funds. Who allowed us to NOT do that prior to 2009 so that a surplus in the fund grew to about a million dollars? Who authorized spending far more than the revenue component after 2009 so that the program was in deficit mode? Has anyone reigned in the program so that it better matches it’s revenue component now? Or, did the County Commissioners change the revenue component?

    I am not sure whether we need additional services to veterans or not. Prior to 2009, we didn’t (or it was mismanaged). Now, we do (or it is being mismanaged). I’d really appreciate some answers to the question of what level of funding do we need for veterans assistance funding in Kitsap County?

  12. Bob Meadows Says:

    Chris, nothing has been withheld from the indigent veterans. The county is spending far more than it has before.

    Kathryn, the levy for veterans assistance can be anywhere from nothing all the way up to 27 cents per $1000. Read it here:
    http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=73.08.080

    Both of you (and Abby, bless her heart) ought to find some facts before shouting in outrage or claiming that the actions of others are immoral.

    The veterans assistance program relied on voluntary service organizations prior to a change in the statute in 2005.

    Those voluntary organizations once did a good job of identifying and assisting indigent veterans by authorizing the payment of public funds to them for their assistance. That was when private organizations were a stronger part of our social fabric.

    They didn’t do such a good job more recently, which was probably the principal reason for changing the law.

    Now, we spend more on administering the program than had been given to indigent veterans through the good offices of volunatary service organizations in the recent past.

    If you really want to ask good questions, maybe you could ask exactly where the money goes now. How much is spent on administration, including the payments to KCR? What did KCR do before being paid to handle this program when a veteran came in asking for help that is different from what KCR does now? You could maybe think of more good questions, but first you have to get off the attack mode and look for the facts.

    If this format turns out OK, here are the ending balances, expenditures and revenues for each year since 1999, according to the county’s annual financial reports. Note the big increase in expenditures once the voluntary organizations were no longer relied upon so much.
    Year Ending bal Expenditures Revenue
    2010 $444,535 $544,352 $37,111
    2009 $951,775 $463,477 $343,210
    2008 $1,072,041 $377,469 $364,382
    2007 $1,085,127 $187,136 $334,504
    2006 $937,759 $64,536 $234,124
    2005 $768,171 $131,201 $219,819
    2004 $679,553 $91,426 $198,217
    2003 $572,762 $102,051 $188,387
    2002 $486,426 $77,287 $199,726
    2001 $363,988 est.$55,848 est.$185,795 See note 1.
    2000 $234,041 $47,495 $261,140
    1999 $20,396 $164,614 $141,509 See note 2.

    Note 1:
    For 2001 the CAFR sections posted by the county
    auditor do not include the “combining fund statements”
    that would show the revenue and expenditures for the
    Veterans Relief Fund in that year.
    The revenue in 2001 would have been approximately the
    same as the Veterans Relief levy amount, $185,795.
    Estimated expenditures equal beginning balance plus
    estimated revenue minus ending balance.
    Note 2:
    In 1999 there was a loan from the general fund to the
    Veterans Relief Fund in the amount of $40,000 to avoid
    a deficit at the end of the year. With that $40,000 in
    the fund, the balance at the end of the year was $20,396.

  13. Bob Meadows Says:

    The software stripped out the spaces between the dollar amounts, but if you pay attention to the dollar signs, you can see where each number starts and ends.

  14. Steven Gardner Says:

    For what it’s worth, my recollection is mostly aligned with Bob’s. It was never described as a loan. It was a one-time shot to the general fund. A veterans advisory board was against it. A budget advisory board, of which I think Bob was a member, recommended it. So to answer the question why we never asked if it was paid back, it was because we didn’t expect it to be paid back. That doesn’t mean the issue wouldn’t come up later, but I don’t recall a single instance of it ever being described as a loan that the county would pay back.

    You can argue whether it was right or wrong to do what the county did, but the commissioners never said they were “borrowing” anything.

    Steven Gardner
    Kitsap Sun

  15. Kathryn Simpson Says:

    Bob,

    I looked at the numbers, even taking them into an excel spreadsheet to check to make sure that the Revenue-Expenditures+PreviousBalance=Ending Balance. It did. Thanks for the numbers. I will concede that the County didn’t “raid” the funds (as long as the expenditures didn’t include fund transfers).

    That being said, one thing that struck me was the fact that the fund was overfunded for a number of years, with about twice the revenue being allocated to the fund than services being expended. Then, when the County decides to increase services to veterans, they begin to put fewer dollars into the fund.

    Now, some folks want a special tax to help veterans and other homeless folks in the county. But the reality is that the only reason there aren’t additional funds in the current account is because the county only put $34K in there last year, when they have historically put in substantially more and used substantially less.

    I could understand lowering the revenue going into the fund if it isn’t historically being used. But increasing expenditures and lowering the funding revenue? And then raising the possibility of a special tax vote to fund veterans services? Come on, that rings disingenuous.

    Perhaps “raiding” was the wrong way to describe the smell, but it still definitely smells.

  16. Kathryn Simpson Says:

    So, I am sorry for the error of my rash use if the word “raid” and it’s derivatives. ;-)

    That being said, I stand by “erratic and contradictory”. :-)

  17. Bob Meadows Says:

    The citizens budget advisory committee recommended that the county use the Veterans Relief levy history (among other things) as a sort of case study to see whether customary staff practices provided commissioners the information they needed to make rational budget and levy decisions. See section 4 of the May 2009 report:
    http://www.kitsapgov.com/boards/Citizen%20Budget%20Committee/Budget%20Committee%20Interim%20Report%20May%204%202009.pdf

    The reason for concern was as stated in that report, i.e., the use of the county’s levy authority to put more and more revenue into the Veterans Assistance fund had the simultaneous effect of reducing the revenue available to everything funded by the General Fund. The question could be boiled down (but not as politely as we tried to put it in the report) as: What were they–the commissioners and their staff–thinking?!!!

    Of course, if the staff didn’t point things like this out in the midst of drafting and adopting a multi-million dollar budget, the commissioners might not notice. Hence the report’s recommendation to look back and see whether it should have been done differently to ensure that the commissioners could quickly grasp the effects. If it could be done better, then find a way to do it better in the future.

    One of the effects of the report was to draw everyone’s attention to the fact that it didn’t have to be done the way it had been–and it could be done differently in the future.

    The immediate effect was that the county’s budget folks came up with a proposal to zero-out the Veterans Relief levy for 2010, so that the county could use its levy authority to provide the funds to the General Fund where the revenue was direly needed. The Veterans Assistance Fund could do quite well with its million-dollar fund balance, and didn’t need an infusion of more revenue in 2010.

    The proposal was presented to the budget advisory committee along with a presentation of the other aspects of the preliminary budget for 2010, and we agreed that it was the reasonable thing to do.

    From what I read and heard, the veterans advisory committee didn’t agree. They still wanted to find new ways to spend down the fund balance that had built up over the years, I suppose, rather than using a significant part of that fund balance in 2010 just to keep doing what was already begun.

    This was portrayed as a recommendation of the budget advisory committee, and I suppose you could say that our agreement with the staff’s proposal transformed it into our recommendation. I won’t quibble with that characterization of it, especially since I continue to believe it would have been insane to put another $300,000 or so of new revenue into the Veterans Assistance Fund and make a corresponding cut in some other program supported by the General Fund.

    The use of the county’s levy authority for the General Fund supported necessary programs, and did not reduce what the county could do in 2010 or 2011 in the veterans program. The effect on the veterans fund would be to make it necessary to put more revenue into the fund in 2012 to keep up with the anticipated $450,000 annual spending. It was going to take more than what could be collected at the 1 and 1/8 cents per $1000 tax rate to keep up with that rate of spending. The only question was which year the higher tax rate would have to take effect.

    As for the “erratic and contradictory” impression you have, Kathryn, consider a few of the surrounding circumstances.

    First, the veterans fund assists whatever number of needy veterans come through the door. Spending can go up or down to meet the identified need. The commissioners cannot control the level of need or the number of veterans who find their way to the door. They can only try to be sure the funds are available to meet the need.

    Second, the identification of the need and the authorization of spending to assist individual veterans was done by the voluntary service organizations like the VFW prior to the statute’s amendment and the county’s reorganization of the program. The reorganization began in 2006 and began to show in the spending level in 2007. Perhaps the voluntary organizations who had been running the show could have done the same, or perhaps the reorganization was needed in order to find and help the veterans who needed help. Whatever might have been, the reorganization was done and it had its intended effect.

    Third, the county’s revenue peaked in 2007 and began its slide downward. Before then, it was apparently not felt when revenue went needlessly into the veterans fund rather than the general fund. After then, it was impossible to ignore–at least, impossible to ignore once the advisory committee pointed it out.

    Fourth, revenue into the veterans fund began to decline after 2008, the peak year for total assessed property value, because values declined and the tax rate remained the same. Applying the 1 cent per $1000 tax rate the county levied in 2006 through 2009 caused the revenue to go up in 2007 and 2008 and then down in 2009 as values fell. Even though the rate for this year is 1 and 1/8 cents per $1000, rather than 1 cent, the revenue is down to about $320,000 from this year’s levy–because values are lower.

    The commissioners need to start thinking in terms of funding needed from the levy–the way it was always supposed to be done–rather than the tax rate needed to obtain that funding. Since they didn’t need to put so much into the veterans fund in 2002 through 2009, they shouldn’t have–even though they were only putting it in at a tax rate of about a penny per thousand (less than 1 and 1/8 pennies per $1000 in 2006-2009, but still more than needed). They seem to have looked at the penny rate and not at the dollars needed in the fund prior to 2009. If they intend to continue spending half a million or more each year, they need to put that much in even though it requires more than a penny per thousand. (It will take about 1.8 cents per $1000 to collect half a million in 2012.)

  18. Bob Meadows Says:

    These figures may help people see the effect of the zero levy in 2010.

    The result—if an adequate ending fund balance is maintained while spending the same amount as in 2010—is a need to increase the levy amount in 2012 rather than 2013.

    If the commissioners had continued with the penny per thousand levy tax rate, there would not be a need for an increase in the levy for 2012, but the ending balance in 2012 would be essentially the same as it will be after the increase they actually need to make for 2012.

    They couldn’t have continued at a penny per thousand for 2013. They would have needed to raise the amount for 2013 to roughly $500,000, which would take a rate of between 1.8 and 2.0 cents per thousand in 2013.

    Continuing to levy a penny per thousand rather than zero in 2010 would have delayed the need for an increase by one year. They will need a levy amount that requires a tax rate of about 1.8 cents for 2012. They would have needed to raise it to that level in 2013 had they not levied zero in 2010.

    The first set of figures uses the actual result in 2010 with no new levy revenue going into the Veterans Assistance Fund, then shows the effect of this year’s levy at the actual 1 and 1/8 cents per $1000 tax rate, and finally what would be needed for 2012 to avoid getting down to an ending balance that is too low to be comfortable. The revenue for 2011 and 2012 is only the current year’s levy amount, since I don’t know what interest on the fund balance and what delinquent tax payments will occur and add to the total revenue.

    Year Ending Balance Expenditures Revenue Tax Rate
    est 2012 $174,422 $545,000 $500,000 $0.018128
    est 2011 $219,422 $545,000 $319,887 $0.011250
    2010 $444,535 $544,352 $37,111 $0.000000

    This second set of figures presents a hypothetical situation in which the commissioners continued levying an amount that could be collected at a penny per thousand in 2010 through 2012—just as was actually done in 2006 through 2009. In other words, the zero levy for 2010 is replaced by a levy amount that can be collected by a penny per thousand, just like they had been doing in the previous four years; and the levy for 2011 is also at a penny per thousand rather than what they actually did with a rate of 1 and 1/8 cents per thousand.

    Year Ending Balance Expenditures Revenue Tax Rate
    hypo 2012 $179,548 $545,000 $275,814 $0.010000
    hypo 2011 $448,734 $545,000 $284,345 $0.010000
    hypo 2010 $709,389 $544,352 $301,966 $0.010000

    These are the figures for total assessed valuation for 2010 and 2011 and the estimate for 2012 that I used.
    Assessed valuation:
    estimated 2012 (3% decline)– $27,581,427,930
    2011–$28,434,461,783
    2010–$30,196,632,984

  19. Colleen Smidt Says:

    When it comes to Levy issues, no one explains it better in the easiest to understand terms , given the complexity of the subject matter at hand, than you Bob. Thank you for this. It helps.

  20. Bob Meadows Says:

    Thank you, Colleen. My hope is that everyone can get off the attack mode and look at what needs to be done.

    When people claim that the only reason for considering a lid lift is the zero levy for veterans relief in 2010, they clearly aren’t basing their opinion on facts. Then they don’t even consider things like figuring out whether the program is spending more than it should on administrative expenses and thus less than it can on direct assistance to needy veterans.

    We’re going to have a program to assist needy veterans, so we need to figure out how to do all we want to do with the funding we want to put into the program.

  21. Colleen Smidt Says:

    Help for Veterans needs to come from a variety of individuals, organizations and sources. I was also very happy to recently read Senator Derek Kilmer’s newsletter (yes I am his constituent) that reminded me of the legislation he sponsored this past year that passed unanimously in regards to veterans. This legislation helped to eliminate unnecessary training for military veterans who seek civilian jobs in professions that they have already obtained expertise in.

    In this particular avenue of assistance it is not about more money or more funding, but simply our elected leadership, doing what they are in place to do and correcting the process to make it easier and more efficient for veterans to get the employment they need, are trained for and have earned through their hard work and service to their country.

    Colleen Smidt

  22. Chris Henry Says:

    @ Bob Meadows (comment 12) “Chris, nothing has been withheld from the indigent veterans. The county is spending far more than it has before.”

    Bob, I don’t believe anything I wrote indicates money was “withheld” from veterans. Sorry if that was not clear in the post.

    The questions in bold to Josh Brown were a paraphrase of Abby Burlingame’s questions. My purpose in posting this blog was to spark a discussion.

    Thanks all for your interest. And just to reiterate, no money was taken from the veterans fund. State law doesn’t allow that. In 2010 no money was levied to the fund.

    Options the commissioners have to match revenue to need (that I know of) include:
    a. increasing the veteran’s fund levy rate
    b. placing a separate levy to benefit veterans and non-veteran homeless before the voters. I’ll be at a Kitsp County Board of Commissioners public hearing tonight on the proposed levy.

    I will attach to this blog a copy of the State of the Veterans Fund, a document from the county. Hopefully this will be helpful.

    Chris Henry, reporter

  23. Bob Meadows Says:

    Chris, the reporter, that comment about nothing having been withheld was in reply to Chris, the candidate, who had written:
    “Is it appropriate for our Commissioners to withhold assistance specifically designated for our Veterans? Is it reasonable that after our Commissioners choose to withhold this assistance that they declare their to be excess of monies in the Fund and then choose to defund monies in favor of the General Fund?”

    That document you posted above, showing the status of the Veterans Relief Fund, is the sort of thing that can show how much of the total goes toward direct financial assistance to indigent veterans. From my first quick look at it, the direct assistance last year totaled $332,702. Other things, including paying KCR to hand out the direct assistance, caused total expenditures to be $544,352 in 2010 according to the county’s audited financial report.

    I wonder if the current organization of the program costs more than it should for administrative costs in providing the direct monetary assistance to indigent veterans that is the central purpose of the Veterans Relief Fund and Veterans Assistance Program.

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