ASOTIN — Sales tax revenue for a new Asotin County Jail should start flowing into county coffers by early June after new voter-approved rates go into effect April 1.

Asotin County officials discussed the new revenue stream Monday during a public hearing on the 2020 budget. The commissioners will take action on the budget next week, along with amendments to the 2019 spreadsheet.

One of the changes on the horizon is a 0.3 percent sales tax increase that was approved in November. Beginning in April, shoppers in Clarkston will pay 8.2 percent on purchases made inside city limits and 8 percent in unincorporated areas of Asotin County and the city of Asotin.

All of the proceeds are earmarked for a new jail, and budget line items will be set up next spring when the construction money starts accruing, officials said.

Sales of goods and services have been strong this year, said Chief Financial Officer Chris Kemp. Through the end of November, close to $1.1 million in sales tax was collected in unincorporated areas of Asotin County. Compared to 2018, that’s about an $150,000 increase, she said.

Commissioner Brian Shinn said he’s pleased with the sales tax gains, but not as enthusiastic about some of the other projections outlined at Monday’s meeting. For example, the cost of running the county is expected to outpace revenues by $458,000 in 2020.

Personnel costs continue to climb each year, and the county’s general liability insurance premiums are going up by more than $100,000. Asotin County belongs to an insurance pool with seven other counties, including Whitman, Lincoln, Stevens, Ferry, Klickitat, Grant and Wahkiakum. The hefty increase is because of the loss of a structure in Grant County and more vehicle accidents and property damage throughout the pool, Kemp said.

Asotin County’s overall budget is increasing from $24 million to $28 million in the coming year.

Most of the increase is linked to large projects on tap for public works, stormwater, roads and the landfill, with the bulk of the money secured through state and federal funding and grants.

Kemp said several items in the 2020 preliminary budget remain unresolved. Unions at the sheriff’s office, jail and public works are still in negotiations, and the county is still waiting on the numbers for new construction from the assessor.

In other county business, officials approved the temporary winter closure of Cougar Creek Road. No residences are along the rural road, which will be closed to traffic with a locked gate.

The commissioners approved an interlocal agreement that designates Asotin County as the lead agency on the Southway Bridge project. Improvements to the well-traveled span are set to begin next spring, said Public Works Director Dustin Johnson, and two lanes of the bridge will remain open while the work is completed.

Sandaine may be contacted at kerris@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2264. Follow her on Twitter @newsfromkerri.

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