Thurston adopts new 2022-2023 budget, raises salaries
Thurston County passed a new two-year budget and increased salaries for elected officials at its last 2021 meeting of the county commissioners’ council on Friday.
Unanimously, the board approved its biennial operating budgets. Commissioner Tye Menser called the budget a “massive undertaking”. While it includes a bit more expense than he hoped, he said he supports every part of it.
“There are a lot of things here that I’m passionate about,” Menser said. “Anyone can pick any item and maybe a commissioner didn’t support that or anything, but I think the overall package here is going to be great for Thurston County.”
Menser highlighted some of the many investments in the new budget: funding for several criminal justice programs, positions in the sheriff’s office, body cameras for law enforcement, stormwater engineers, lake management, water mitigation plan. county climate, its racial equity plan and parks.
The final budget includes projected income increases in 2022 and 2023 largely due to strong tax revenues and funding for pandemic aid, the Olympian previously reported.
Deputy County Manager Robin Campbell presented the budgets and thanked County staff for their input.
“This is the culmination of 11 months of hard work by so many people across the county,” said Campbell. “Everyone involved has done a tremendous job this year, in another difficult year as we continue to navigate the pandemic. “
The approved operating budget for 2022 includes approximately $ 525 million in revenue and $ 515 million in expenses, Campbell said. In 2023, however, the county plans to bring in around $ 412 million and spend $ 452 million.
The County General Fund will generate $ 116.2 million in revenue and spend $ 125.8 million in 2022. The following year, revenue will reach $ 117.4 million and expenses will drop to $ 124.2 million. .
Campbell said the county intentionally budgeted larger total spending in the general fund to reduce a fund balance of $ 38 million at year-end.
This expected fund balance includes money dedicated to one-off functions such as responding to the landmark State v. Blake on simple drug possession.
“When we look out, the one-time expenses stop in two to three years, the income starts to rise, and you see a balance in the coming years of income and expense,” Campbell said. “It was designed that way to reduce short-term fund balances. “
The board also unanimously approved its two-year capital budget, which funds public works projects, excluding leasehold improvements to the newly leased Atrium building.
In a separate vote, Commissioner Gary Edwards voted against funding for leasehold improvements in the Atrium building in order to remain consistent with his stated opposition to the county’s plan to relocate general government offices there.
The county signed a seven-year lease to occupy the building by mid-2022. Menser said he was proud the county had taken concrete steps to address this long-standing need.
“I am proud of this council for stepping up and finding a short to medium term solution that meets the county’s space needs without a tax increase and a fraction of the cost of previous plans,” Menser said. “It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s the best solution to meet the needs. “
Campbell said she expects leasehold improvements to the Atrium to cost no more than $ 10 million over the next two years. The adopted budget includes $ 5.7 million for improvements in 2022 and up to $ 4.3 million in 2023.
The board of directors approved salary increases for county staff and elected officials on Friday. County staff will see a 2.5% cost of living increase while most county officials will receive a 4.2% increase.
This means that the assessor, auditor, clerk, coroner and county treasurer will each earn $ 131,904 in 2022, up from $ 126,588 in 2021. The sheriff earned $ 156,396 in 2021, so his increase will bring his increase. salary at $ 162,960.
The county attorney will see the lowest pay raise percentage, just 2.22%, but he will remain the highest paid elected official with a salary of $ 199,668 in 2022.
The council approved the salary increases based on recommendations from the County Citizens Commission on Elected Officials Salaries. The board does not have the power to set its own salaries.
Instead, the salary commission set increases for county commissioners that reflect the recommended increases and compensate most other elected officials.
At a meeting on December 13, the salary board abandoned a preliminary proposal to give the auditor a 7% salary increase in favor of aligning her salary with that of other elected officials.
The county did not increase the salaries of any elected officials until 2021, the Olympian had previously reported.
A new fund
In a notable step, the council voted unanimously to create a cumulative reserve fund for its long-term habitat conservation plan.
Once passed, the HCP will allow the county to streamline the process of licensing development on land potentially occupied by federally protected species, including three subspecies of Mazama’s ground squirrel.
The newly created fund will be used to pay for the purchase and preservation of habitat for endangered species in Thurston County, Campbell said.
“This is an important step,” said Campbell. “We are close to having an approved habitat conservation plan and being able to move forward. We have been working on it since 2011. “
A 45-day comment period for a draft environmental impact study ended in November. Once the EIS is finalized, the county planning commission will review the plan by the first quarter of 2022, according to the county.
The county commissioners council could then adopt the final HCP by the second quarter of 2022.