PORT ANGELES — Clallam County’s $54.818 million 2024 budget, including a $13.12 million general fund budget, indefinitely defers filling seven general fund positions, although two will be reviewed in six months.
Commissioners Randy Johnson and Mike French voted to approve the budget following a second public hearing Tuesday night. Commission Chairman Mark Ozias could not attend the meeting.
“We are looking at an unpredictable period for counties in 2024. This budget gives us a strong starting point and we will continue to monitor the situation,” said Clallam County Administrator Todd Mielke.
The general fund, which is separate from the capital projects fund, includes nearly everything people associate with county government, including police and courts, parks and recreation, public health and community development.
The five general fund positions to be deferred indefinitely are two in juvenile services, two in health and human services’ environmental services division and one in the county commissioners office. They are vacant and do not require layoffs.
A vacant court clerk position in District Court 1 — the subject of a lively discussion between District Court Judge and the commissioners at a Nov. 27 work session — and a vacant legal assistant position in the prosecuting attorney’s office also will be deferred but reviewed again in six months.
The county projects collecting only $52.14 million, which would require using almost $2.67 million in reserves. However, county finance officials noted during the past several months that the county historically never has been fully staffed. So, those chronically open positions will save the county between $2.2 million and $2.5 million in personnel costs.
So with the addition of those five to seven deferred positions, the county’s reliance upon general fund reserves will be reduced to an estimated $317,000. Based upon that projected deficit, the county is projecting to have $12.8 million in reserves at the end of 2024 instead of $10.45 million.
The budget assumes a 4.63 percent increase in sales tax for 2024, based upon a projected 1.6 percent growth in taxable retail sales and a 3.03 percent increase in sales tax growth from multiple large state Department of Transportation road projects in 2024, including fish barrier removal and the Elwha River Bridge replacement.
A staff memo said: “The county’s project general fund reserve levels are projected to remain above 20 percent and the county essentially has no long-term debt service commitments outside of office/land leases heading into 2024.”
Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane told the commissioners that the county has no current debt service costs from the general fund, but that could change.
“The reality is, like many other counties, for future capital projects we may need to tap into the bond markets,” he said.
Doing so will require maintaining a general fund reserve level equal to at least 25 percent of total expenditures to get favorable interest rates and bond ratings, Lane said.
According to Lane’s budget memo to the commissioners, Mielke has asked several departments, including community development and environmental health, to follow the Parks, Fair and Facilities Department’s lead and review their rates and fees in 2024.
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