The word that best describes the 2016 preliminary budget is “flat.”
Anticipating $32,544,088 in revenues within the coming year, coupled with the General Fund Reserves of $12,187,311, the total funds available in the General Fund is $44,731,399 — or about a 0.6 percent increase than last year’s budget.
“Basically it’s a flat budget,” Jim Jones, Clallam County administrator, told the few people attending the public meeting in Sequim on Oct. 1 where he, county commissioners Jim McEntire and Bill Peach and county engineer Ross Tyler, presented the 2016 preliminary budget.
The upcoming budget is likely to remain “flat,” Jones said, because of the “expected continuation of the local economic recovery first noted in the 2015 Mid Year Review.”
Consistent with their plans, Jones calculated the preliminary budget assuming a full year with the 0.2 percent reduction in sales tax in the unincorporated portions of the county and the lack of the available 1 percent in the county portion property tax.
Given an expected $33,740,055 in budgeted expenditures, Jones forecasts using about $1.2 million of reserves to balance the budget. The use of reserves still leaves about $2.05 million of “excess reserves” or non-restricted funds “that would be used or saved for future uses,” Jones said.
The 2016 preliminary budget reflects the costs associated with staffing adjustments made in 2015, such as the addition of one half-time and three full-time employees and transition of all full-time employees back to a 40-hour work week.
“Since 2012 we’ve been maintaining,” Jones said. “This is the first year the commissioners have allowed an add of staff.”
The budget also includes a 1 percent Cost of Living Adjustment on both Jan. 1 and July 1.
Despite the combined salary and benefit increases, the total General Fund expenditures are only expected to increase by 1.58 percent ($526,308) because contracted services and supplies are projected to go down and thus offset the increased expenditures.
However, more expenditures are likely to accompany the recommended budget as there are department “asks” that need to be taken into account, Jones said.
Already, Jones and the county budget director Debi Cook have met with each department head and received funding requests for consideration in the recommended budget developed by Jones.
Following the recommended budget, there’s a second round of meetings with department heads “basically get to take a second bite at the apple and ask for more than I am recommending,” Jones said.
Throughout the remainder of October and beginning of November, the county commissioners, Jones and Cook will meet with each department in preparation for Jones to make a final draft budget recommendation to the commissioners on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
Combining both the General Fund budget and all other funds, given the beginning balance of $50.2 million, county officials expect about $79.7 million in revenue and about $88.4 million in expenditures, leaving an estimated ending balance of $41.5 million. However, Jones notes that the most recent expenditure requests from department heads in 2016 in other funds totaling more than $4 million have yet to be included in the preliminary budget.
At 10:30 a.m, Tuesday, Dec. 1, at the Clallam County Courthouse, 223 E. Fourth St., a public hearing is scheduled on the final budget, for final adoption by the Board of Clallam County Commissioners on Tuesday, Dec. 8.