County 2024 budget looking at fixes to combat inflation issues to be able to fill vacant positions

County combating inflation issues to provide enough in budget for job vacancies yet to be filled


Thurston County Budget Director Robin Campbell laid out the 2024 proposed General Fund during the county’s budget briefing yesterday, September 12.

The Budget Office of Thurston County and the county commissioners discussed the baseline adjustments to the budgetary documents that are under review as part of refining the 2023 budget and preparing for the 2024 fiscal plan.

Nicole Martinez, a Budget Office member, said there was a total of $5 million decrease from the 2023 revised budget, which sets the 2024 baseline budget at $126.6 million.

The Budget Office stressed the significance of maintaining the balance in the 2024 General Fund, which enables commissioners to assess and approve budget requests from different departments according to their respective priorities.

 “What you're seeing here is what they have all asked for. So that doesn't mean you can afford to fund them,” Campbell said.  “It doesn't mean that you will or won't fund them. It means that you will give them fair consideration.”

The Budget Office has detected a pattern indicating that the budget reversion is on track to return to pre-pandemic levels, with an average annual increase of 3%.

The office also raised a concern about the decrease in sales tax revenues, which led to a shift of approximately $500,000 in expenditures from the detention sales tax fund back to the general fund, or to a reduction in spending in either the juvenile or adult jails.

Job vacancies

According to the report presented by the Budget Office in August, there are a total of 174 vacant positions throughout Thurston County, which is why Campbell mentioned that they have noticed trends in the number of applicants, making it easier to fill these positions.

Campbell said that the Sheriff's Office planned to hire an additional 30 deputy sheriffs in the 2024 budget, a proposal questioned by District 2 Commissioner Gary Edwards.

Similarly, in the Assessor’s Office, an additional $411,000 was requested for their Policy Level, mainly due to staffing.

 “We have to fix [this] or we can't do the job at all. Until we address the whole pay structure to meet inflation,” Edwards said. “If we don't do it, we don't fix the vacancy issues. We don't recruit, we lose all that institutional background and capabilities.”

Campbell suggested that when they continue this budget hearing with the departments, it is important for them to weigh the significance of addressing employee compensation concerns against prioritizing other included items.

District 3 Commissioner Tye Menser highlighted disparities in demands from unions and government departments during the pre-inflation and pre-pandemic era, with unions primarily seeking increased compensation and government departments focusing on the creation of additional positions.

All members agreed that the October meeting with multiple departments will play a role in shaping their decisions regarding the 2024 General Fund, enabling them to establish priorities within each department's proposed budget.


2 comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here

  • psterry

    There is a lot of turnover in County staff. One reason for that high turnover is most likely a low pay scale for workers. Turnover is expensive in many ways, including training for new people to get them up to speed. Time is money, and the County does not operate efficiently with this level of turnover. Workers are just waiting for a job to open up that pays more, then jump ship within the County jobs. The replacements are less knowledgeable, less versed. Cheaper workers are expensive. The inefficiency becomes glaringly obvious when it comes to getting permits approved, and in getting any project moved off dead center. This County would save money by paying wages that don't encourage turnover. A knowledgeable, stable, enthusiastic workforce would save everybody money. I would urge the County to consider using some underspending on its work force. Hiring a highly trained worker would make a huge difference to all of us who have been subjected to starting over, time and again, with someone new every few months.

    Friday, September 15, 2023 Report this

  • Snevets

    Juvenile jails? Does WA have a prison pipeline?

    Friday, September 15, 2023 Report this