- The preliminary Thurston County budget for 2015 will be presented to county commissioners and the public at the regular weekly commission meeting on Tuesday, September 16 at the County Courthouse.
The county's overall preliminary budget for 2015 is $294 million, which includes $88 million for the proposed General Fund spending level. All county offices and departments, including those departments that report to the Board of Commissioners, and those offices managed by independently elected officials, such as the Assessor, Auditor, Prosecuting Attorney, Sheriff, as well as District and Superior Courts, have been working for several months on a 2015 budget plan frozen at 2014 levels. Elected leaders and department directors will have to absorb the increases in medical benefit costs, salary increases, and other inflationary costs as part of this budget.
"The budget reflects a responsible approach to maintaining critical services, while supporting the county strategic goal of long-term fiscal sustainability," said Commission Chair Karen Valenzuela.
Commission Vice Chair Sandra Romero noted that the 2015 budget process has significant challenges that demand a very strategic approach to decision making. Romero said "Tax payers have voted into law limitations on revenue and we are working within those limitations. We are faced with the increasingly difficult task of finding ways to pay for critical services and programs and as a result, offices and departments across the county have begun to do less with less."
Commissioners, who have overall budget responsibility for the county, alerted elected officials and department directors early in the year that the 2015 budget would be frozen at 2014 levels. In making the decision that the budget freeze would affect all offices and departments equally, the approach has been to protect priority services and staff as much as possible, while building a financially responsible fund balance.
Given these fiscal realities, offices and departments are increasing the use of data to make tactical resource allocation decisions. For example, FBI data shows that the violent crime rate and 9-1-1 calls in Thurston County are trending downwards. These trends allow the Sheriff to respond appropriately to calls for service even in this difficult budget climate.
Commissioner Cathy Wolfe praised the county's elected leaders and department directors for their hard work and planning for the 2015 budget. "Dealing with a budget freeze like this is very challenging, but our elected colleagues and our department staff have risen to that challenge. They've presented very smart, finely tuned spending plans that enable us to deliver mandatory services as efficiently as possible."
Along with the public presentation at the regular commission meeting on Tuesday, September 16, members of the public will be able to download and view the 2015 preliminary budget presentation from the county's website starting Monday, September 15 at www.co.thurston.wa.us. There will also be an opportunity for members of the public to comment on the 2015 preliminary budget at a public hearing at the County Courthouse on Monday, October 6 starting at 5:30 p.m.
- WHAT:Presentation of the 2015 Thurston County Preliminary Budget
- WHEN:Tuesday, Sept. 16 at 2 p.m.
- WHERE:County Courthouse Building One, Room 280 at 2000 Lakeridge Drive SW in Olympia