County mulls second biennial budget

Final approval set later this month

PORT TOWNSEND — The Jefferson County commissioners are close to approving their second biennial budget, with nearly $69 million budgeted for 2022 and about $79.5 million in place for 2023.

The commissioners listened Monday to a presentation on the draft budget by interim County Administrator Mark McCauley. They will consider approving a final budget on Dec. 13.

The commissioners conducted a public hearing on the proposed budget Monday. No residents provided comment.

County officials decided to change to a biennial budget process in March 2019 to free up staff time by going through the full budget process every other year instead of annually.

Also on Monday, the commissioners approved a 7.5 percent wage increase for Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and union exempt employees for 2021, with pay being retroactive from the first pay period of the year.

The commissioners approved an amendment to be added to the final budget, which would add a full-time human resources position that would be split between the general fund and the public works fund.

The proposed biennial budget has a predicted deficit of $4,782,851 for 2022 and an estimated deficit of $1,964,145 for 2023, and the county has a fund balance available to cover the overages, according to commission documents.

The budget for all funds for 2022 has an expected $68,975,746 in predicted revenues, with an estimated $73,758,597 in expenses, McCauley said.

The general fund for 2022 has an expected $22,655,317 in predicted revenues, with an estimated $24,300,273 in expenses. That would leave an estimated fund balance of $5,183,903, with $1,538,862 in unencumbered funds, after reserving $3,645,041, McCauley said.

Of the general fund’s estimated ending fund balance, 15 percent of the overall expenses of that year are reserved from the remaining funds, McCauley said.

Between the 50 other funds within the county, overall revenue is estimated at $46,320,429 for 2022, with $49,458,324 predicted in expenses, commission documents said.

The budget for all funds for 2023 has an estimated $79,548,078 in potential revenues, with $81,512,223 predicted in expenses for that year, commission documents said.

The general fund budget for 2023 has $23,554,726 in predicted revenues, with an estimated $24,217,004 in expenses. This would leave an estimated ending fund balance of $4,945,423, with $1,312,872 in unencumbered funds, after reserving $3,632,551, commission documents said.

Between the other 50 funds within the county, the overall revenue is estimated at $55,993,352 for 2023, with $57,295,219 in predicted expenses, commission documents said.

There’s about $10 million included in the 2023 budget that comes from the about $20 million in funding for the Port Hadlock Sewer Project, McCauley said.

The five-year projections for the unreserved fund balance is better than previously thought, with 2025 estimated to have a unreserved balance of $768,951 and 2026 having an estimated balance of $497,065, commission documents said.

“Previous five-year projection reflected a negative unreserved fund balance in 2025 of $466,023,” McCauley’s presentation said. “Our projections through 2026 are much improved.

“We are optimistic about the future but remain cautious, as always.”

The commissioners voiced general approval on the work done by county staff on the budget, especially with the focus on investments such as the Port Hadlock Sewer Project and raising wages for county workers.

“I’m really appreciative of the direction we’re headed,” said chair Kate Dean. “There is still a fair amount of uncertainty around the economy, and we will continue to track that.

“The reality of government is like business and has to contract when the economy does and grateful to be making those investments right now and know that there are still some unknowns, and we will respond as we need to.”

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at zjablonski@peninsuladailynews.com.

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