By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners adopted a 2014 budget Tuesday night.
No commissioner objected to the $32.37 million general-fund budget in the first of two public hearings Tuesday morning. They held a second hearing Tuesday night, then adopted the fiscal document.
The budget eliminates unpaid furlough days and restores a 37.5-hour workweek for most non-emergency-service workers.
It uses $388,324 in reserves and includes no new layoffs.
“While this budget complies with all laws and county policies, and collects the allowed 1 percent increase in property taxes, which helps to ensure the continuation of all existing county services, it does not address some very compelling requests for additional staff in the prosecutor's, treasurer's, assessor's and director of community development's offices due to anticipated future revenues being not sufficient to pay for these worthy needs,” County Administrator Jim Jones said.
The three commissioners voted a 1 percent increase to the property tax levy for general government — and a 1 percent increase to the county road fund levy — after their second public hearing Tuesday night.
Commissioners Mike Chapman and Mike Doherty voted in favor of both levy increases.
Commissioner Jim McEntire voted for the road levy but not the property tax levy.
A 1 percent increase to the county's $9.95 million general purpose tax levy will generate $99,506 in revenue.
A 1 percent increase to the $6.72 million road fund levy will generate $67,160 in revenue.
The 2014 budget reflects the expiration of a concession package that the county negotiated with its eight unions in late 2011 that resulted in 32 unpaid furlough days during the past two years.
To make up for the loss of the furlough and increased medical insurance payments, the county is reverting to a standard 37.5-hour workweek for nearly all Fair Labor Standards Act-covered employees and adjusts the salary scale for other workers.
Most hourly non-emergency-service workers went from 37.5 hours weekly to a 40-hour schedule in January 2012.
The Clallam County Courthouse will continue to be open Mondays through Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The general fund for day-to-day operations shows $31.98 million revenue and $32.37 in expenses.
The use of reserves to balance the budget leaves $9.61 million in general fund reserves, of which $9.12 million is restricted by county policy.
The total Clallam County budget, which includes special revenue, debt service, capital projects and other funds, is $81.21 million in 2014.
Norma Turner of Port Angeles testified in the first public hearing Tuesday that commissioners should work with the state Legislature to reduce the cost of court trials.
She conceded the need for fair trials and adequate representation.
“I don't know where that balance is, but I hope that you will be actively lobbying at the Legislature level to find out what is a rational way to balance justice and adequate representation and the budget,” Turner said.
The retrial of double-murderer Darold Stenson, for example, cost the county $995,665 in 2013.
“Between the Legislature, the local governments and the courts, we need to find a way to bend the cost curve so that we're not in a position of having to actually ration justice based upon a finite number of dollars,” McEntire said.
“I don't know where the solution is, but I certainly will be discussing those kind of things in some kind of specific terms with the Legislature.
“It's a big conversation.”
The 2014 Clallam County budget is posted with supporting documents on the county's website, www.clallam.net.
Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at email@example.com.