When the assessor speaks, commissioners listen

Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick was among the 41 people who testified Nov. 29 on a proposed 5 percent entertainment admissions tax.

Van Nortwick was against the tax. He said the county, which has been cutting expenses to bring them in line with revenues, can’t afford a tax for a non-essential service.

“The county has a financial crisis,” Van Nortwick said. He mentioned that two employees retired from his office and he opted not to ask to have the positions filled. He’s told his staff to be more efficient.

“I’m trying to cut costs,” he told Commissioners Marc Boldt, Tom Mielke and Steve Stuart. “I’m trying to keep taxes down.”

Fast-forward to board time on Wednesday, when commissioners were reviewing requests to fill open positions.

The requests had been screened by a vacancy review committee, a team of senior-level managers assembled by Administrator Bill Barron to determine whether open positions really need to be filled. If the requests pass the committee, they get passed along to commissioners for approval.

Commissioners breezed through the first few requests, saying nice things about the departing employees. Then Barron read off a request from Van Nortwick for a personal property auditor/appraiser. The position would be for 12 months; the hourly salary range is $22.17 to $28.27. The request was submitted Nov. 3.

Wait a second, Stuart said. He recalled Van Nortwick’s testimony from the Nov. 29 hearing.

“Are we now being asked to fill a position?” asked Stuart, the only commissioner who, in the end, was supportive of the admissions tax in order to bring the Yakima Bears to Vancouver.

Van Nortwick was very clear about saving taxpayers money, Stuart said.

He said he’s all for supporting elected officials and their goals.

The other commissioners agreed, and told Barron to tell Van Nortwick they need more information in light of what he said Nov. 29. Is this position different from one of the two he said he wasn’t going to ask to fill?

Barron said Thursday he sent the message via Linda Latto, the chief deputy assessor.

Van Nortwick will be a special guest at next week’s board time.

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