Clallam County to dip into reserves in 2021

Preliminary discussions go into range

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County will need to dip into its general fund reserves between $2.1 million to $3.5 million to fully fund the 2021 budget, said Mark Lane, county finance director.

Revenue projections for next year are $41,509,000 while total expenditures are estimated at $45,011,000, Lane told county commissioners on Tuesday.

A budget deficit of $3.5 million in 2021 is estimated to leave $10,907,000, or 25 percent of county expenditures, in the county’s general fund reserves at the end of the next year.

“It’s not where I’d like to be, but there are some revenue headwinds that are contributing to it,” Lane said.

The budget gap also was likely to be lower based on historical averages.

“Historically, the general fund has underspent its salary/benefits budgets by $1.68 million over the last three years and by $1.43 million over the last five years,” Lane noted in a preliminary budget breakdown.

A county policy requiring each department to budget assuming it is fully staffed for the entire year has contributed to that underspending as open positions resulting from retirement, voluntary terminations, turnover and delays in filling positions create cost savings.

Lane called it an “important component in understanding how our actual spending in this area compares to our budget.”

“Realizing $1.4 [million] to $1.7 million in underspending is certainly achievable, especially if cost-saving extensions like the hiring freeze [for non-public safety positions] is extended for all or part of next year,” Lane said.

An additional $434,000 in capital outlays also are expected in 2021, and $820,293 in general funding requests have been submitted which are not reflected in the initial budget proposal.

Nearly half of that total, $355,500, has been requested by the county prosecutor’s office to provide ongoing funding for expenses related to the multiple number of active homicide prosecutions.

Lane and Clallam County Administrator Rich Sill will continue the budget-making process by meeting with department directors next week.

County department heads have been asked to produce a fully funded budget and a budget that reflects a 10-percent reduction in funding in order to deal with potential COVID-19 uncertainty.

Two virtual public meetings to present the proposed budget are planned on Sept. 21 and Sept. 28.

A recommended budget will be presented Oct. 12, and the final budget proposal submitted to the board by Nov. 17, with a public meeting planned Dec. 1 to adopt the budget.

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Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or at [email protected]

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