OLYMPIA -"I'm not going to kid you. It's going to be a difficult Autumn as you consider what you can afford to fund and what the county's real needs are." That was the word of caution as Assistant Thurston County Manager Robin Campbell presented the preliminary 2016 budget to the County Commissioners. Campbell told the commissioners that the county is in a pretty good financial situation this year, earning an AA bond rating from Standard and Poor's, but budget enhancement requests from the 18 county offices and departments far exceed the revenue available. The dozens of requests total about $8.3-million. That compares with a predicted 2015 ending budget reserve, which the county needs to maintain and grow, of $10.5-million.-30-
The county's overall preliminary request budget for 2016 is $316.8-million with a General Fund budget of $91.8-million. That compares to an overall budget of $312-million and a General Fund budget of $89-million for 2015. The good news is that there has been growth of about 6-percent in sales tax revenue from this time last year and new construction value of about $328-million which is also up when compared to last year. However, the cost of doing business also continues to rise with inflation. And, some economists are saying 2015 may be a peak year with the economy to flatten or decline in subsequent years.
County Commission Chair Cathy Wolfe says commissioners will be very prudent in finding the right balance for the budget. '"There probably isn't a part of county government that doesn’t deserve more space, personnel and improved technology. However, we just do not have the revenue to approve all the requests."
County manager Cliff Moore says commissioners will dig deeply into the budget numbers as they set the spending plan for next year. "Commissioners will be meeting with all of the agencies of county government to go over the exact details of their budget requests for 2016. The schedule calls for budget deliberations in November, and commissioners will adopt a final budget, with any enhancements that are approved, in December.
The public has a chance to weigh in on the budget discussion at a public hearing set for December 7. In the meantime, those interested in the preliminary 2016 budget can find details, and send email comments, by using the county's interactive budget device on the county web site at- http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/bocc/budget/