The Thurston County Budget Office reported a financial adjustment aimed at aligning expenses with revenue, preventing them from exceeding funds and maintaining a budget, due to the loss of income sources.
“We saw a lot of one-time revenue happen during COVID. It wasn't just the COVID money but that contributed to this, and these one-time things are ending,” according to Assistant County Manager and Budget Manager Robin Campbell during the county’s September 13 budget briefing.
Campbell explained that at the moment, they cannot afford the total $16 million policy-level request as part of the budget because the revenue this year is flat.
Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council is predicting a consistent 1% increase in the revenue generated from sales tax over the upcoming years.
In the previous year, the Budget Office projected a 5% increase in revenue; however, due to a slowdown in sales tax revenue this year, Thurston County is aligning its forecast with the report from the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council.
Campbell presented the pillars of the financial foundation from the GFOA (Government Finance Officers Association) to guide their decision-making process for the 2024 General Fund Budget.
With this, the Commissioner together with the Budget office is planning to work on long-term goals with short-term means.
“If you only focus on the short term, you can make decisions that are quickly unsustainable,” Campbell pointed out.
The Budget Office proposed a budgeting or financial management change to treat grant-supported spending separately from other general fund spending in a new functional system, with the goal of improving accountability and transparency in financial matters.
They also plan to enhance department and office monitoring, collaborate to the extent feasible, and closely track financial plans quarterly to proactively manage budgets and make amendments as needed.
“It is not going to help if it’s not visible on the board until the problem is bigger and could have been recognized,” stated District 3 Commissioner Tye Menser.
Campbell reported that while some officials are trying to budget the funds they have, others are requesting more from the board, which does not align with the budgeting process.
The Budget Office said that the County is now facing stagnant pre-pandemic revenue levels and needs to align spending accordingly, anticipating ongoing financial challenges without significant improvement.
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