A draft of Olympia’s 2021 operating budget presented at a city council meeting on Tuesday shows a $2 million gap in the general fund, an effect of economic hardships brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The funding gap is expected to be filled by the budget revenue stabilization reserve, a fund set aside by the Olympia City Council for just such a need. The general fund, estimated to be $87.8 million in 2021, maintains baseline city services and programs.
Nanci Lien, Olympia’s finance director, said during a meeting earlier this week that the expected shortfall initially started at $10 million, but was reduced through a series of reducing expenditures and re-projecting revenue. Lien said the finance committee was planning to meet this week to discuss further methods of cutting down the funding gap. The committee will present new recommendations to the council at the Dec. 1 council meeting.
Lien presented the council with a draft of the 2021 operating budget and capital projects budget. The meeting served as a public hearing, giving citizens a chance to provide feedback on the preliminary budget.
The preliminary budget projects $166.8 million in total operating expenditures. This year, expenditures were $178.1 million. Expenditures were $157 million in 2019.
One citizen spoke during the public hearing. Zoe Torres, a mental health councilor, read a letter representing a number of mental health councilors in the county. Torres said she and other professionals stood alongside Black Leaders in Action and Solidarity Thurston (BLAST), a group that presented demands to city officials earlier in the year. The demands were concerning equity for people of color, and among them were calls for diverting funds from the city police department toward community-based programs. Similar calls for diverting funds away from police departments have become commonplace across the country, as protests and demonstrations against police violence against people of color have become common place.
The 2021 preliminary operating budget includes $21.5 million budgeted for the Olympia Police Department, a 5 percent increase from 2020.
The council will meet again Dec. 1 to further discuss the budget. The budget must pass through two votes to be approved. The first reading and vote is scheduled for Dec. 8 and the second on Dec. 15.
View the full preliminary operating budget at http://olympiawa.gov/~/media/Files/AdminServices/Budget/2021%20Budget/2021%20Olympia%20Operating%20Budget%20Prelim.pdf?la=en