OLYMPIA - A majority of the Thurston County Commissioners today voted to adopt a budget for 2016 of about $330-million. The General Fund portion of the budget is about $93-million. Both are up a bit from 2015 spending levels but not enough to reflect any real growth. -30-
There has been modest growth in revenue, with property tax and sales tax both up slightly. However, the growth has not been enough to keep up with inflation. County Commission Chair Cathy Wolfe says that makes balancing the budget very difficult. "We had requests for additional funding from county offices and departments totaling about $12-million. Unfortunately, we only had about $800-thousand in flexible spending and that's just not enough for all the need."
"The 2016 budget allows us to continue to provide quality programs and services throughout the entire county." says Commissioner Sandra Romero. "Pot holes will continue to be filled, clean drinking water will still be a priority and families can still rely on health inspections at restaurants."
County Manager Cliff Moore says this budget enables the county to move forward with a fiscally responsible fund balance in 2016, but stated that "We will still need to monitor revenues and expenditures very carefully throughout the coming year." He further noted that, "With the 1% cap on property tax growth, the primary source of General Fund revenue, we will continue to be challenged to provide services that the community expects. Inflation has been averaging between 3 and 5% a year and revenues have not kept pace. Without a structural fix to this inequity, the County will likely have to make some very difficult decisions in 2017 and beyond."
The county budget has a reserve of just over $10-million, which is considered a 'best financial practice' by bond rating companies, allows financial coverage between revenue collection periods and is there in the case of situations such as weather emergencies.
For those who wish to examine the budget in detail, it is available on the county web site at www.co.thurston.wa.us. Web visitors can also delve deep into the 2016 spending plan by utilizing the new "OpenGov" budget tool located on the web site.