Clallam midyear budget on pace to be in the black, county administrator says

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County's $32.7 million general fund is on track to be $103,200 in the black by year's end, thanks in part to revenue increases that “may be onetime in nature and cannot be counted upon in the future,” County Administrator Jim Jones reported Tuesday.

The 2014 midyear county budget status is “as projected,” Jones told commissioners in a charter-required review.

Jones and Budget Director Debi Cook used a three-year average of midyear performance vs. actual performance at year's end, with adjustments for anomalies, to project $32.84 million in general fund revenues and $32.74 million in expenditures.

Projected revenue

The projected revenue includes a $500,000 refund from the Office of the Administration of the Courts for extraordinary capital murder trial expenses in 2013 and greater-than-expected retail sales tax collections, timber revenue and Payment In Lieu of Taxes for the presence of federally protected forestland in the county.

The midyear budget projects a combined $324,735 in unexpected revenue from the Payment In Lieu of Taxes program, sales tax and the sale of county timber.

Jones hypothesized that the projected $100,000 increase in sales tax revenue — $4.35 million was budgeted — is likely the result of the U.S. Highway 101 widening project between Port Angeles and Sequim.

“On balance, the projection is reliable for the rest of this year,” Jones said in an executive summary to the midyear budget, which he read in a public hearing Tuesday.

Possible 2015 layoffs

“Looking forward to 2015, the governor has warned us to prepare for an up to 15-percent decrease in state sponsored revenues in all but a selected few 'protected' areas, which depending on where they come, could result in reductions in services and layoffs in those departments who have provided them,” the summary said.

Speaking later in the hearing, Jones said about 30 percent of total county revenue comes from the state in one way or another, mostly to perform services on its behalf.

“Some of it is grant money, but they do an awful lot of hiring us as an agent for them to do work that they're required to do,” Jones said.

“That was the comment that I made at the last sentence in the executive summary, is that if they suddenly tell us, 'We're not going to pay you to do that work, or some portion of that work, anymore, we're going to quit doing that work,'” he added.

“That's where those potential layoffs will come.”

15 percent cut

In addition to the 15 percent cut, state officials have warned that pension costs are likely to rise “pretty significantly” in the next biennium as the result of a pending lawsuit brought by government unions, Jones said.

“So that's another thing, looking forward, that we worry about,” he said, later adding: “I do not think it's all doom and gloom.

“I think we show a pretty long history, going back to about 2008, of stable revenues but not growing revenues.”

Although expenditures have risen with the cost of inflation, Clallam County has maintained a “semi-balanced” budget throughout the Great Recession by not replacing some 40 full-time-equivalent workers who have left county employment, Jones said.

'Can't cut any more'

“The problem is, as the commissioners noted in their state of the county report back in February, we have essentially reduced staff to the level that most of the department heads and elected officials — I have mentioned and have reported to the commissioners in their state of the county, they agreed — we can't cut any more and still do all the things we've always done,” Jones said.

“The trimming around the edges is essentially done. We know, if we cannot find a way to increase revenue, the only way we can control cost is by quitting doing things.

“And that's what we have to look for in 2015.”

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5072, or at rollikainen@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: July 22. 2014 7:12PM
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