Clallam commissioners set budget hearings

Deficit projected for 2020

Clallam County commissioners have scheduled their final hearings on the 2020 budget, which projects a more-than-$3 million deficit next year.

Public hearings on the proposed final budget are set for 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Clallam County Courthouse.

The commissioners will likely take action following the evening meeting, but could delay the decision until Dec. 10.

The 2020 budget projects that the county will start the year with $14.69 million in the general fund reserve, but projects a deficit of $3.072 million over the next year. Clallam County is the only county in the state that is not in debt.

Revenues are expected to total close to $42.9 million while expenditures will be about $46 million.

This deficit is “considerably larger … than proposed in the past,” but CFO Mark Lane said much of the deficit can be accounted for in one-time capital costs and in unpaid salaries due to turnover.

Almost half of that deficit can be attributed to recommended capital projects, Lane said.

The budget includes $1.3 million for bluff stabilization at Salt Creek, HVAC replacement for the county’s building on Third Street, initial planning costs for relocation of the Emergency Operations Center and Information Technology capital projects.

The county has not made any transfers from the general fund to the Parks/Facilities or IT capital project funds since 2007 and both funds would be fully depleted next year.

“The proposed contributions to these funds can be fully funded using less than one half of the projected 2019/2018 operating surpluses generated within the General Fund, leaving in excess of $11.6 million of general fund reserves at the end of 2020, which represents a still healthy level of reserves for the general fund,” Lane wrote in a memo.

This year the general fund had an operating surplus of about $1.8 million, despite the 2019 budget projecting a deficit.

Another $1.2 million to $1.4 million can be attributed to “dark time,” Lane said.

County policy prohibits the county from accounting for turnover in personnel. In recent years turnover has resulted in $1.2 million to $1.4 million being unspent as the county works to fill positions.

Budget changes

The projected deficit in the budget has increased about $130,000 since the draft budget was initially presented.

The costs related to department asks increased a total of $22,000. The budget includes $76,000 for a CASA volunteer coordinator, $47,000 for a program coordinator and $20,000 for the Department of Community Development.

This budget includes $927,534 of the $1.75 million in department requests, with the remaining $822,000 deferred.

The Prosecuting Attorney’s Office had requested about $500,000 to cover the costs of multiple homicides, but is budgeted for $327,000. The remaining costs will be handled as a debatable emergency once the actual costs are more clear, Lane wrote in a memo.

That $327,000 also makes up a large expenditure the county doesn’t typically need to fund, he said.

“While there may be an opportunity to recover some of these costs from the State upon conclusion of these cases in 2021 or possibly incur less costs depending on how the cases develop, it is unclear how much, if any, reimbursement will be received or cost savings realized,” he wrote.