OLYMPIA -- The Thurston County budget manager today unveiled the county's preliminary 2013 budget, marking the first step of the county's formal annual budget process. The $291.4 million preliminary proposal would enable Thurston County to maintain its current level of programs and services without the painful budget cuts enacted over the past several years.
"While the revenue outlook isn't as grim as it has been in recent years, we still predict that our local economy will only bump along and remain pretty flat, so the decisions we make in the coming weeks must reflect that reality, and we'll need to focus on holding the line and maintaining what we do now," said Commission Chair Cathy Wolfe.
The preliminary budget represents a launching pad for future budget deliberations and public hearings that will take place over the next several months. More detailed budget information will be presented by department staff, including detailed breakdowns of 2013 expenditures, as well as long-term outlooks on staffing and program needs.
Although Thurston County's budget deliberations this year will be less painful than in years past, County Manager Don Krupp predicts the sluggish economic recovery and flat revenue forecast will mean another lean year in 2013, and likely in years to come.
"While we don't foresee a big upturn in revenues and this preliminary budget is a modest, hold-the-line proposal, I think we did hear some good news today in terms of status of our 2012 expenditures," said County Manager Don Krupp. "We started the year with about $15 million in our General Fund, and it looks like we'll end this year with about the same amount, which is good news. That fund balance gives us a cushion that experts recommend, and it's thanks to all of the county employees who have kept a hawk's eye on their budgets and who have used solid, smart fiscal management. I think it shows we're positioned well to weather the storm and that we're functioning well in these lean times."
Property and sales taxes are the largest revenue source for the county's general fund, which supports core county services that do not have their own dedicated funding sources. Property tax growth, however, is limited to one percent per year, while operational costs typically increase by three to five percent per year during a normal economy. Thurston County's general fund receives only 11 cents out of every dollar collected in property tax revenue and the county's population increases by 5,000 to 6,000 each year.
Now that county commissioners have the preliminary budget in hand, they will work with offices and departments of county government to refine the spending plan. As part of the budget deliberations, county offices and departments will make presentations to commissioners in the coming weeks that discuss more detailed revenue and expenditure proposals. Those presentations are open to the public, and a public hearing on the budget will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 in room 280 of Building One of the Thurston County Courthouse. Between now and the hearing, Thurston County residents are encouraged to submit their comments to:
Board of County Commissioners
Thurston County Courthouse
2000 Lakeridge Drive S.W.
Olympia, WA 98502
Comments may also be sent by e-mail to: email@example.com
Budget materials are available online at www.co.thurston.wa.us