Clallam County preliminary budget for ’23 looks good so far

Outlook expected to become more clear in the coming months

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County’s 2023 budget looks fine so far, although what happens on the national level could change that, Clallam County Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane told the Clallam County commissioners during a presentation on the preliminary 2023 county budget.

Tuesday’s presentation was the first step in the budget process, with adoption of the final budget scheduled for Dec. 13.

The commissioners discussed possibly moving this step ahead one month next year when more information is available.

Lane said he projects a $13.7 million beginning budget balance, with $50.1 million in revenue and $52.5 million in expenses, so using $2.4 million of the reserves. However, staff budgets as though the county is fully staffed, which it never has been, he said.

The county is projected to spend between $1.9 million and $2.5 million less on salaries in 2023, meaning only $428,000 would come from reserves, Lane said.

This preliminary budget is a “rough draft” and highly incomplete,” he reminded the commissioners.

“Obviously, there’s a lot more that needs to be done before this budget is in its final form,” Lane said.

Lane said it’s a challenge to forecast macroeconomic factors such as inflation and action taken by the Federal Reserve.

The risk of recession is something of concern given the Federal Reserve’s track record in preventing them, he said.

Lane said the current economic situation is not a typical recession given the rising employment numbers along with the large number of job openings.

But the county has “very healthy reserves;” he is not losing sleep over that, he said.

Lane said certain important projects are not included in the budget’s expenses, but it will have a list of recommended capital projects when the final budget is released. More American Rescue Plan Act (COVID-19) funds also are coming, he said.

County Commissioner Mark Ozias said before Lane began his presentation, “I want to make sure everyone understands that the preliminary budget is a step in our budgetary process as outlined by the charter. So we do it. It does have some value.

“There are so many assumptions and unknowns that exist at this point around which we will have a lot more clarity over the next few weeks as the budget process moves forward.”

In other action, the commissioners approved:

• An agreement amendment with the Health and Human Services Department for various Health and Human Services Department programs.

• An agreement with the Washington Health Care Authority for behavioral health services.

• An agreement amendment with Children’s Home Society of Washington for the Parents for Parents Program.

• An agreement with the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts for attorney and court visitor appointments.

• An agreement with the Washington State Administrative Office of the Courts for the Family and Juvenile Court Improvement Plan.

• An agreement with the Peninsula Housing Authority for American Rescue Plan Act funds (COVID-19).

• An agreement amendment with the state Department of Ecology for the Lower Dungeness Floodplain Restoration Project.

• Expanding the Clallam County Board of Health from eight members to 11. (The number of representatives from federally recognized tribes in the county was increased from one to four.)

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Reporter Brian Gawley can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at brian.gawley@soundpublishing.com.

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