Clallam County eyes $1.5 million savings/revenue target

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County officials have their work cut out for 2017.

The three commissioners, other elected officials and department heads will attempt to reduce a budgeted $2.29 million draw on the general fund reserve by $1.5 million during the course of the year.

“We have a lot of hard work ahead of us,” Commissioner Mark Ozias said in the second of two budget hearings Tuesday.

“And as I expressed earlier, I am excited and and enthusiastic to get to it.”

Commissioners Ozias and Bill Peach voted Tuesday to approve a budget that shows $36.67 million in general fund revenue compared to $38.96 million in expenses.

Reduction goal

County leaders will meet regularly next year to monitor the progress of a stated goal to reduce the $2.29 million draw on the rainy day fund by $1.5 million.

“We commissioners want to make clear that we are concerned about the management of the budget, and we’ll be paying close attention to it,” Ozias said.

Peach was absent from the first public hearing because he was serving with the state Board of Natural Resources in Olympia.

Commissioner Mike Chapman, who will soon take office as a state representative, was absent from the evening vote.

Chapman expressed no objection to the proposed budget in the first public hearing.

His successor, Commissioner-elect Randy Johnson, testified in the second hearing that he would like a monthly financial update to track the progress of the $1.5 million goal.

County Administrator Jim Jones said it would be “no problem” to provide a monthly budget recap rather than a quarterly report as has been provided in the past.

“I just think there’s enough moving parts, and the target’s big enough [for a monthly update],” Johnson said.

“And to go three months and not look at it is a little bit too much, in my opinion.”

At year’s end

Using $2.29 million in general fund reserves would leave $8.31 million in the bank by year’s end.

County policy requires a $7.95 million minimum reserve balance to pay for emergencies and to make payroll without borrowing money.

The $363,796 that would be remaining in available reserve would not be adequate to weather a recession or provide any cushion to deal with potential cuts in state contracts and grants, county officials have said.

To reach the $1.5 million objective, the board may consider staff reductions through attrition. More than 50 county employees are expected to retire in 2017.

“Part of the savings that we’re capable of achieving is with how we replace retirees,” Peach said.

New revenue options

Commissioners also will “look hard at any new revenue opportunities” to improve or at least save countywide services, Jones said in a budget summary.

Peach said there could be unexpected revenue from interest income and timber harvests on state Department of Natural Resources-managed land.

The approved budget includes the “great majority” of the departmental funding requests, according to the summary.

“I think that the commissioners have done everything we reasonably can to provide the resources that our leadership team told us that they need,” Ozias said.

“We are all aware of the challenging budgetary situation that that puts us in, and it will require all of us working together in order to manage a significant amount.

“And I’m very, very hopeful that we’ve got the team of commissioners in place, and I know we have an incredible leadership team in place to help us do that.”

Peach shared his fellow commissioner’s optimism.

“We worked really hard, Mark, in the last year to really, really bring home the notion of collaboration and transparency,” Peach said.

“I very much look forward to continuing that.”

“As do I,” Ozias said.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@ peninsuladailynews.com.

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