Clallam County’s 2020 budget predicts nearly $3 million deficit

Shortfall largely due to capital projects, court costs from homicides

PORT ANGELES — Clallam County’s recommended 2020 budget forecasts a nearly $3 million deficit, Clallam commissioners heard during a work session Monday.

Chief Financial Officer Mark Lane told commissioners that currently the budget forecasts a $2.9 million deficit for next year, the majority of which can be attributed to $1.3 million in capital projects next year and about $500,000 in court and prosecution costs attributed to multiple homicides.

He said the county can also expect to save an additional $1.2 to $1.4 million due to turnover in employment. County policy requires the budget to assume 100 percent staffing levels, though up to $1.4 million goes unspent each year due to gaps in employment.

“The general fund operating deficit is significant and larger than what you’ve seen historically,” Lane said, adding that there will still be a “healthy” fund balance left over at the end of the year.

The budget calls for revenues of about $43 million and expenditures of about $46 million.

In 2020 the county will start with a general fund balance of about $14.5 million — about $3 million more than budgeted. The budget forecasts the general fund balance dipping to $11.55 million, not accounting for money not spent during gaps of employment.

Commissioners had budgeted for a $1 million deficit this year, but the latest projections show the general fund seeing a surplus of about $1.8 million this year.

Lane, who previously worked in newspapers, cautioned commissioners against planning for gaps of employment, or “dark time,” at the department level. If departments have that in their budget, there would be encouragement to leave positions unfilled longer that what might normally occur, he said.

“I’ve seen budgeting of dark time where it has never created an issue, but then there have been other issues where it has become a hindrance,” he said.

Commissioner Randy Johnson suggested the county should rework its policy to allow the budget to reflect what will actually happen.

He said he’s “not very happy” that the budget cannot currently account for the unspent dollars.

A major portion of the deficit is to fund capital projects.

Lane said that there have not been any transfers from the general fund to either the parks/facilities or IT capital project funds and that as a result of that, both funds would be fully depleted next year.

About $300,000 is set for a bluff stabilization project at Salt Creek, $340,000 for an HVAC replacement, $250,000 for Emergency Operations Center costs and $85,000 for unanticipated projects. There is also $370,000 set aside for IT projects.

Lane told commissioners the county may be able to recover the additional $477,000 budgeted to cover the costs of multiple homicides for the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and Superior Court.

He emphasized that the $477,000 amount budgeted is at best an estimate and that the actual costs aren’t known. The county would face lower costs if plea deals are reached in any of the pending cases, he said.

Johnson said he would like to see solid numbers for the costs that the county could face.

“I would like the breakdown,” Johnson said.

Clallam County Commissioners on Thursday will begin meeting with individual department heads during public meetings as they work to finalize the budget.

A work session is set for Oct. 28 to review resolutions for general propose and road fund tax levies for next year.

On Nov. 18 the revised draft budget will be discussed during a work session.

On Nov. 26 will be a hearing and adoption of property tax levy resolution.

Dec. 3 is the final public hearing on the budget, set for 10:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the board room at the Clallam County Courthouse.

If needed, the commissioners can delay approving the budget to Dec. 10.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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