Clallam County commissioners approve 2019 budget

Spending plan leaves $11.5 million in reserves at end of year

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County commissioners have approved the county’s 2019 budget, which includes a $1 million deficit and will leave $11.5 million in reserves at the end of the year.

“Absent some major unpredicted event — economic, political, legal, physical or other — I feel that the general fund is on an even field for 2019,” said Stan Creasey, chief financial officer for the county.

Commissioners unanimously approved the budget last Tuesday. It calls for General Fund revenues of $41.5 million and expenditures of $42.5 million.

“This year’s budget is a lot like last year’s,” Creasey said. “In broad strokes, it provides much of the same services in much of the same amounts as 2018.”

Creasey said the budget assumes modest growth in the economy next year at about 2 percent.

The budget includes $1 million in departmental requests, $600,000 of which is reflected in the approved budget. Creasey said the remaining $400,000 would be considered in July following the six month review.

He said that at the county, just like in life in general, departments do not get all they ask for and many worthy causes go unfunded or underfunded.

“If the results of the six months are good enough, then some or all of the $400,000 may be added back in.”

Creasey said that about 68.5 percent of the county’s expenses are for salaries, wages and benefits.

Creasey expressed concerns for what the future might hold. He said he is worried about when the economy does eventually fall again, but said when that will happen is anybody’s guess.

“Someday we will have another recession and we’ll face some very painful choices to balance our needs to continue services with our need to maintain financial strength,” Creasey said. “The best we can do is to build a prudent reserve that should be enough to get us through a downturn and then rebuild the reserve once we get past the crisis, which is pretty much what we’re doing.”

When commissioners opened the hearing up for public comment, much of what they heard from the public was about the county’s lack of movement on addressing climate change.

“I’m here specifically in relation to the budget because usually when you want to get things done, it costs money to do it,” said Ed Chadd, a member of Olympic Climate Action.

Chadd questioned whether the county has acted on a resolution approved earlier this year that detailed steps the county should take toward addressing climate change.

The resolution said the board of commissioners would lead an effort to engage the community on efforts that could be implemented.

“I think that is a wonderful thing for the board to have adopted for something that you all want to do,” Chadd said. “Again, I don’t see where that’s been accounted for in the budget and I’m hoping it is accounted for and that is something we’re able to do.”

Commissioner Mark Ozias responded by saying the county has taken steps by working on the county’s Shoreline Master Plan, but also said there’s plenty more work to do across the board.

He said the county will make progress on the issue.

“I would like to assure you that we will make progress on this this year,” Ozias told another person. “If we are at this meeting next year and you haven’t seen progress, then I will take complete responsibility for it because it will sit on my shoulders.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.

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