The Thurston County Budget Council reported an under-expenditure of $5,407,540 in the year-end projection for 2023, which will contribute to the additional fund balances for the 2024 General Fund.
District 3 Commissioner Tye Menser questioned, “Why is the fixed 5 million of reversion translating into an extra 5 million projected fund balance?”
Budget Director Robin Campbell explained that the forecast accounts for the recent years’ reversions, which resulted from staffing gaps and the influx of COVID-related funds, showing signs of gradual realignment, and noted that this year's budget proposal has exceeded initial forecasts due to the post-COVID economic rebound.
Nicole Martinez, a member of the council, highlighted a 99% property tax collection rate, underscoring their practice of establishing a budget to guarantee they can lawfully collect the maximum permissible amount.
Martinez said that the sales tax revenue fell short by $500,000 compared to their initial projection, despite a 2.3% year-over-year increase in collections up to June. She mentioned that their budget allocation was based on approximately a 5% sales tax increase over the previous year's budget, but they only achieved a 2.3% increase over the actual collections in June.
Campbell said that before deciding on the 2024 budget, with what happened during June, the Budget Office needs to monitor the revenue trend during September and October to assess whether it aligns with the trend or if there will be an increase or decrease.
The council emphasized that given fluctuations in the economy over the past months, they observed that “the numbers are all over the place,” making it a tricky time to attempt forecasting for the future.
The Budget Council is in the process of launching a new website, to be announced by the Assessor's office, allowing residents to see a breakdown of where their Thurston County property taxes go, with a focus on General Fund County taxes rather than local tax district allocations for schools, fire departments, and libraries.
In the General Fund for 2024, the committee plans to focus on employment to support growth, believing that increasing employment and filling job vacancies will contribute to economic growth.
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