Thurston County released its 2011 preliminary budget Tuesday, and its fiscal manager said the county is in fairly strong financial position going into next year.
The $276.4 million budget, which is about 8.5 percent lower than the revised 2010 budget, calls for maintaining service levels with no layoffs, a slight increase in general fund spending and a $28.9 million decrease in other funds, budget and fiscal manager Robin Campbell told the board.
Overall revenue is anticipated to increase by about $11 million, due mainly to the county issuing bonds for capital projects, including the scheduled construction of three facilities at its Tilley Road complex. However, funding tied to consumer spending, such as the real estate excise tax and detention sales tax, remains an unsure revenue stream.
“We really do expect revenue to stay flat or grow at a very slow pace,” Campbell said.
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At nearly $70 million, law and justice spending constitutes one-quarter of the total budget, followed by roads at $45 million and social services and housing at $38 million.
The county has budgeted $7.93 million for continued construction on Yelm Highway between Henderson Boulevard and Rich Road, its largest capital project. Another $2.3 million in grant funding is identified for bridging the gap of the Chehalis Western Trail.
The jump in the $79.6 million general fund is attributed in part to a projected 12 percent increase in medical benefit costs. There will be no cost-of-living increase for county employees in 2011, a decision based on the Consumer Price Index, Campbell said.
Other increases include moving several departments to the general fund, including emergency management, says County Manager Don Krupp.
The sharp decrease in spending for other funds is due to the county’s completion of several capital projects, including the Accountability and Restitution Center. Roughly another $20 million budgeted in 2010 for CAPCOM and Pacific Mountain Workforce Development won’t be needed in 2011 because both leave county control.
There is $1.6 million in general fund spending that is not tied to the current preliminary maintenance budget and will have to be decided on by the board, Krupp said. The minimum maintenance option for the ARC and vehicle replacement for the Sheriff’s Office make up most of the requests and cost about $400,000 each, he added.
Additional state layoffs and cuts could affect revenue for the several county departments. The Public Health and Social Services Department is anticipating budget amendments for 2011 and could lose millions in state funding.
During her presentation, Campbell also warned that looking at 2012 and beyond, if the county doesn’t want to face more cuts, it must find ways to sustainably cut costs or find additional revenue.
“If we don’t do something systemically, we may be looking at a drop in general fund balance,” she said. “The past few years have been pretty difficult budget years for the county.”
Recent budgets have been far less kind than the proposed 2011 budget. In the past few years, the county has cut 146 jobs and consolidated departments as general fund revenue sagged.
Krupp said those tough decisions put the county in a better position for this budget cycle.
The county will end this year with $11 million in its general fund and all of its funds are at fiscally responsible levels, Campbell said.
Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org