Commissioner talks budget to DAV members

Island County Commissioner Angie Homola speaks to members of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 47 at the group's March 1 meeting at Oak Harbor Library. Kathy Reed/Whidbey Crosswind

In an election year, budgets are on everybody’s minds. Although the attendance at Disabled American Veterans Chapter 47 meeting last week at the Oak Harbor Library was smaller than usual, those present gave Island County Commissioner Angie Homola their full attention.

John Callahan, Chapter 47 commander, welcomed Homola and Gerald Pfannenstiel, who handles veterans and adult outreach services for Island County. Homola greeted the audience, and explained her visit.

“I know you all are conducting a business meeting here tonight, so I don’t want to take time away from that,” said Homola. “However, I welcome the opportunity to walk you through this budgetary process at the county level.”

Homola said she hoped to make the case for setting aside more money for veterans from Island County’s current general fund levy. At the present, the Veterans Assistance Fund for indigent veterans gets a slice of the general fund and stays at roughly $115,000 per year. While the VAF budget can be raised by one percent, the money would have to come from elsewhere in the general fund.

A proposal by state Senator Mary Margaret Haugen, (D, Dist. 10) among others, would have allowed the county to levy an additional amount that would be set aside for the VAF. The proposal would give the county some control over raising or lowering the levied amount, based on projected expenses.

The audience first viewed a short, informational video about the Island County Health Department, before moving on to a power-point display narrated by Homola. She explained that before she took office three years ago, a Veterans Advisory Review Committee held the responsibility of recommending whether vouchers for indigent veterans’ needs should be approved or denied.

“We didn’t want to see veterans in need or their families going without, either because they didn’t know what help was available, or thought they just wouldn’t qualify,” Homola said. “Since Jerry (Pfannenstiel) has been overseeing the process of dealing with veterans’ sometimes unique challenges, we’ve gone from seeing five to 10 veterans yearly to 80 to 100,” she said.

Homola characterized Pfannenstiel as going above and beyond his job description. “We’re lucky to have him,” she said.

And although Homola said the veterans’ standalone fund hasn’t yet been approved legislatively, there is still a possibility it could be included in the budget proviso.

“If we don’t do it this year, I’m confident we can get it passed next year,” said Homola.

She and Pfannenstiel ended the presentation by saying that the door was always open, and they welcomed comments and questions.

Callahan then presided over the pledge of allegiance, invocation, roll call of officers and committee reports.

Michelle McClain, chapter adjutant, reported 100 riders were transported to VA hospital in February “even though it was a short month.”

In other updates, Callahan reminded the group that the DAV Convention will be held June 7-9. After accepting nominations for chapter officers for the new year, the meeting adjourned.

The DAV’s next meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 5 at the Oak Harbor Library.