MONTESANO — The Grays Harbor County commissioners approved a $26.26 million operating budget during a special meeting on Thursday. The budget includes two new corrections officers as well as permission to fill vacant positions in District Court, the Prosecutor’s Office and the facilities division.
The operating budget dives into reserves by about $850,000, but is budgeted to leave about $5.4 million in the fund by the end of 2014. Budget Director Brenda Sherman says that the cash reserves could end up higher depending on how timber harvests do next year, as well as sales tax and property tax revenue. Sherman said she wanted to budget more on the cautious side.
About 71 percent of the operating budget funds salaries of county employees. Several county contracts are still not complete and would need to be funded using reserve funds in supplemental budgets next year.
The entire budget also includes $83.6 million in miscellaneous funds, including $12.6 million in Public Health funds, as well as money devoted to roads and the county forest.
Although the budget might have been approved, County Commission Chairman Frank Gordon points out that the revenue numbers are still in flux because of incomplete figures turned over by the Assessor’s Office.
Auditor Vern Spatz told the commissioners that, at this point, the county should have at least had firm expenditure numbers to hand out to department heads so they can see the budgets proposed compared to what department heads requested. Spatz pointed out that none of that had been done.
County Commissioner Herb Welch questioned why he and his fellow commissioners couldn’t delay approving the budget until they meet again on Dec. 30.
“We should get input from the departments,” Welch said. “That’s been an issue that has come up to bite us in the past.”
Commissioner Gordon questioned whether county staff had enough time to process any changes requested by department heads. The budget needed to be approved by the end of the year.
Ultimately, Commissioner Wes Cormier pointed out if any changes do need to be made, they can be done early next year. He apologized to Spatz.
“In a way, you shouldn’t apologize because a lot of the problems are not our fault,” Gordon said to Cormier. “We’re not getting numbers from a different office entity, which I won’t name, so it’s nice for you to be willing to take blame, but I don’t think there’s any blame you need to take.”