Proposed Amendment to 55%/45% Should Be Reviewed

Opinion and Action.  I became concerned after reading that the County Council plans to introduce an amendment to the ferry fund / fare structure tomorrow night  (Council meeting 6/5/2012) without following the Council’s general policy of reviewing proposed legislation with fiscal consequences.   After reading the proposed amendment (AB2012-197) , I emailed the Council requesting simply that the Public Works and Financial Committees first review and discuss the proposal before sending it to full Council.  If you think this is a good idea (or not, of course), I recommend you email  our elected representatives today letting them know (contact info for the Council and Jack Louws, Executive).

Here’s the email request I sent, with ‘whats’ and whys’.  (As with all such emails to the Council, this is part of the public record.)

Sent: Jun 4, 2012 10:12 AM
To: county council
Cc: Jack Louws County Executive
Subject: request committee review ab2012-197 before introduction

Dear Council Representatives:

I request that either the PW or Finance Committee, or both, review proposed ordinance ab2012-197 before it is introduced to the full council.

To my knowledge, it is standard for all financial and other proposals related to ferry funding to first be reviewed and reported out by the Finance or PW committees. I believe that process should be followed for AB2012-197. (Please note that I am *only* requesting a full committee review before introduction. I not asking you to vote one way or another on AB2012-197 if and when it comes to the Council for a vote.)

Reasons for this request:

1. I have read the proposed changes in AB2012-1967. The introduction was nicely written to convey that this proposal is ‘merely’ intended to clarify the definitions of the 55% / 45% covered by fares vs road fund taxes. Seems very simple & obvious.

However, the financial effect on citizens of the proposed revision won’t be ‘mere’, as it will effectively shift ~$244,000 more to what fares must recover from here on. That will directly set up conditions for another ferry fare increase in a manner that isn’t fully open and transparent to all those who use the county ferry transportation system.

Therefore, I request that the PW committee review that implication before the ordinance is introduced to full council.

2. I’ve heard that the Executive has told PW to reduce its FY2013 budget by $250,000 (not at all unreasonable). What is not clear to me and I’m sure others is whether the $250k reduction is for the entire PW budget (road funds, water, ferry etc) or just the ferry budget (that 45%). Whereas ultimately the Council is responsible for making fiscal decisions, and whereas such technical issues are not well considered in single public hearings by the full council,

 I request that Finance Committee clarify,before AB2012-197 is introduced to the full council, whether the proposed $250,000 reduction in the PW budget pertains to or will be equitably distributed among all elements within the PW budget or whether it will be drawn down only from the ferry budget.

 Again, I stress that I am simply requesting that the Finance and PW Council Committees clarify these two important issues in committee before AB2012-197 is introduced to the full council, as is consistent with the Council’s standard policy of reviewing proposed all ordinances with fiscal and resource impacts before they are sent to Full Council for introduction.

Thank you,

Wynne Lee
2171 Tuttle Lane
Lummi Island, WA 98262

3 thoughts on “Proposed Amendment to 55%/45% Should Be Reviewed

  1. Good catch, Wynne.

    Someone on an earlier thread asked if this amendment wasn’t just blatant unfairness to Islanders. I am not sure – but this quiet budget revision certainly feels like someone is trying to sneak this through.

    The issue is whether the deficit reduction state subsidy should be split between ferry users and the County Road Fund or if it should only go to the County. The memo attached to the memo alludes to a rule change 4 years ago (when the Ferry Fund was created?) that led to the state subsidy being split. Does anyone know for a fact how the County’s 45% contribution was calculated beforehand (before or after the deficit reduction monies)? Why was the decision made to calculate the subsidy that way? Had there been a recent expansion of the definition of operating expenses (which would have shifted more burden on to the ferry fund?)

    We Islanders need to make some noise on this in order to have a public conversation or our cash-strapped ferry system may lose this funding forever.

    • My very strong preference is to NOT assume a problem of ANY sort. I don’t see the county council or public works as ‘the enemy’. I just think it’s important that we ask the Council, Exec and all ferry users to make sure that we are all clear about what’s going on and why BEFORE a public hearing / vote is scheduled.

  2. I’m missing something here. Where did the $244,000 / yr from the ferry users come from?
    Reading the memo said $262,418 over four years, or up to $80,000 based on FY2012 budget. That’s still a chunk of change for the islanders to eat, but I still don’t see the math working out that way, based on running the calculations on the old ordinance wording, and the new wording.
    Effectively, in both cases, all revenues for the ferry from the state should be deducted from the ferry expenses, BEFORE dividing by the user revenue.
    The old language is a bit confusing, so maybe I got lost in the weeds.
    A fair thing to do would be to let PW Cmmte sort through this, so the ‘Fiscal Impact’ is clearly understood by both ferry users and Council members alike.
    Thanks Wynne

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