Clallam rolls out preliminary budget with projected deficit
By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
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County Administrator Jim Jones presented a preliminary budget to commissioners and the public, one of several steps in a charter-mandated budget-adoption process that includes public hearings and the passage of a final budget Dec. 10.
The preliminary budget lists $31.55 million in projected revenues and $32.06 million in projected expenses in the general fund for day-to-day operations.
The half-million-dollar shortfall will be dealt with one way or another — through cuts, layoffs, union concessions or other means — in the coming months.
Central to the process will be upcoming labor negotiations with the county’s eight unions.
The current concession package that saved jobs in late 2011 will expire at the end of this year.
Those concessions included 16 unpaid furlough days for most county workers in 2012 and 2013.
Absent new labor agreements, state law requires the county to extend the expired bargaining agreements for one year.
As such, an impasse in the negotiations would result in a 37.5-hour work week for non-24-hour emergency services workers, a 1.08 percent cost-of-living raise and the “restored ability to lay off employees as finances may require,” Jones said.
“I’m hopeful that eventually, we’ll reach agreement with our unions, but we don’t know exactly what that agreement will entail,” Commissioner Jim McEntire said.
“As a budgeting conviction, we have to assume that the status quo, or the status quo ante, is the condition that will prevail to prepare this preliminary budget.
“That’s not predictive, necessarily, of what the ultimate budget will be,” McEntire added.
“We can’t make any guesses as to what those labor contracts are going to include as far as how to price them and budget for them.”
McEntire was careful not to predict an impasse or leave the “wrong impression that we’re pessimistic, necessarily, about our prospects of ultimately reaching some agreements with our unions.
“That process is ongoing,” he said.
The preliminary budget is available at www.clallam.net under “Current Issues.”
It includes an account summary, charts for revenue, expenditures and staffing along with a two-page executive summary that Jones read into the record Tuesday.
“General fund revenues are still not growing, in fact are projected to be pretty much flat for the next several years,” Jones said.
“We are expecting a small increase in sales taxes and are projecting the full 1 percent increase in property tax, as allowed by law [about $98,000], and a little increase in timber sales but not much else.”
Jones said the “big changes” in revenue are cuts from state grants and contracts for services, including $400,000 hits to both long-range planning and environmental health.
Commissioner Mike Doherty said the board has been “fairly active, both offensively and defensively, regarding revenue.
“We try to keep as much as we can locally and watch the administration of state agencies, federal agencies and how they do things,” Doherty said.
On the expense side, Clallam County is paying $226,228 for the third and largest of three mandatory increases to the state retirement fund, Jones said.
It also is dealing with higher fuel, supply and outside services costs associated with a 1.2 percent spike in the Consumer Price Index from July 2012 to July 2013.
Clallam County projects to end this year with $10 million in a general fund reserve, most of which is restricted by policy for payroll, urgent capital replacement projects, murder trials, public health emergencies and other surprises.
Jones and Budget Director Debi Cook will meet with elected county officials and department heads to review their budget requests between Sept. 18-26.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last modified: September 10. 2013 6:02PM