Clallam holds public budget meetings: last in Sequim today

By Rob Ollikainen
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — A year after wading through a fiscal morass, Clallam County enters the 2013 budget season on relatively firm footing.

Unlike last year, no layoffs are anticipated to balance the general fund budget, which pays for day-to-day operations.

County Administrator Jim Jones proposed a balanced recommended budget in the first of three public forums Tuesday night in Port Angeles.

A second forum on the proposed budget and six-year transportation plan was held Wednesday night in Forks.

A third and final public meeting is at 6 p.m. today at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

The proposal shows $31.3 million in general-fund revenue and a $54,017 surplus.

“This year's budget was really made easier by last year's negotiations,” Jones said in a telephone interview.

Last November, employee unions agreed to two years' worth of concessions to save 16 jobs after 15 had been laid off.

Most employees are taking 16 unpaid days off this year and next year or taking a corresponding 6.13 percent pay cut.

Those and other concessions helped the county cover a $2.7 million shortfall before this year's budget was adopted.

In 2013, state cuts will present similar challenges on the revenue side.

Jones projects a $900,000 cut to Community Development Environmental Quality, a $200,000 cut in Health and Human Services Environmental Health and an $80,000 reduction in fines paid because more people are doing community service rather than paying their traffic tickets.

“General fund revenue increases are still being held back by the weak economy,” Jones wrote in an executive summary to his proposed budget.

Clallam County had to make up for a $1.5 million shortfall going into the 2013 budget process.

The recommended budget proposal largely gets there with $1.4 million more revenue than the preliminary “roll-up” budget that Jones presented Sept. 11.

The new revenue comes from a one-time $1 million return of real estate excise tax money that was transferred to the non-general fund capital projects budget in 2006, a $200,000 transfer from roads to the sheriff's budget for traffic policing, a $100,000 increase in projected timber sales and other, smaller adjustments.

On the expense side, the county will have to pay more into the state retirement fund and deal with a 2.7 percent Consumer Price Index change. Additionally, 2013 cost-of-living raises will be fully honored.

Overall expenses are projected to be 1 percent lower next year.

Last month, Jones and Budget Director Kay Stevens met with elected county officials and department heads to discuss their budget requests in closed-door conferences.

Those discussions resulted in significant movement in the budget but a slight reduction in bottom-line expenses, Jones said.

Later this month, the three commissioners will meet with the same county officials in recorded public meetings to revisit their budget requests.

The commissioners “could change any of the assumptions made” in the currently proposed budget, Jones said.

“It's a very involved process,” he added.

A final budget is expected to be adopted in December.

No public testimony was offered on the county budget in Tuesday's forum at the Clallam County Courthouse.

However, eight people testified in favor of the Striped Peak Road project, which is listed as unfunded in the proposed six-year Transportation Improvement Program.

Dan Phillips and others who live west of Freshwater Bay said Striped Peak Road is a “danger to the traveling public” in its current condition.

The $664,000 project would pave and widen a 0.41-mile stretch of lower Striped Peak Road, which has a blind corner and sees high volumes of residential, recreational and logging traffic.

In 2010, county commissioners approved a road improvement district that would have funded a 24-foot-wide, 2-inch-thick asphalt surface for Striped Peak Road and moved the private road into the county road system.

Landowners would have paid for the upgrade with a portion of their property taxes over 20 years.

One resident sued the county, saying the junior taxing district was formed illegally, and hired a Bellevue-based attorney who specializes in local improvement districts.

Rather than fighting a five-year court battle, commissioners may add Striped Peak Road to the list of funded projects and improve the road, using right of way that residents have offered to donate, Jones said.

Commissioners will adopt a transportation plan in December.

The proposed plan has 25 funded projects totaling $24.6 million and 40 unfunded projects totaling $35.2 million.



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

Last modified: October 03. 2012 5:47PM
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