News

County faces $1.5 million budget gap

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

Clallam County has a projected $1.5 million budget shortfall as the 2013 budget process begins.

 

County Administrator Jim Jones presented the preliminary roll-up budget proposal at the Board of Commissioners’ Sept. 11 meeting and advised them layoffs are not an option to balance the budget.

 

“We need to reduce expenses, or increase revenues, or some combination of both, and make decisions over the next 12 months to determine major ‘priorities in government’ reductions, and/or tax increase requests from the voters, to deal with the reality of these permanent revenue reductions into the future,” Jones said.

 

Last year, during the 2012 budget process, the county agreed there would be no more layoffs if the unions agreed to concede their cost of living adjustments and take unpaid furlough days for two years.

 

The agreement, which saves the county about $1.8 million per year, will expire at the end of 2013.

 

Since 2009, the county has reduced its staff by about 35 full-time equivalent positions through freezing replacement hires, eliminating new hires and layoffs, Jones said.

 

The county’s general fund revenues still are being held back by the weak economy, with no expected increases in sales tax but a 1-percent increase in property tax, as allowed by law, he said.

 

Cuts in grant funding for contracts for service are the biggest changes in revenue, with more than $900,000 lost in Community Development and $200,000 lost in Health and Human Services, he said.

Additionally, $80,000 is lost as more people are choosing to perform community service rather than pay cash for their traffic tickets, Jones said.

 

“Total general fund expenditures actually go down by $317,710,” Jones said, adding the decrease is due to reductions in contracted services, supplies and interfund payments along with continued furlough days and staff reductions due to attrition.

 

Jones said the county has been frugal over the past four years and $10 million remains in the general fund reserves. Of that, $7 million is recommended to be restricted, leaving $3.1 million available to pay for urgently needed capital replacement projects without borrowing money, he said.

 

County Commissioner Jim McEntire said he would look into economic indicators within the county as they move forward with the budget process.

 

Commissioners will meet with county department leaders to examine each budget before presenting a balanced budget Nov. 13. After that, the county will take into consideration public comment, with a final public hearing scheduled for Dec. 3., before presenting and adopting a final budget Dec. 11.

 

 

Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.
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