Last Tuesday evening, at 5:30 p.m., Lewis County held a public informational meeting on its budget process with the hopes of allowing the working world a chance to come and ask questions on the expenditures and revenue of their government, according to Budget Administrator Becky Butler.
For the last few years, the budget process has been aided by a volunteer citizen commission along with county staff and the Board of County Commissioners. The process of projecting money in and out of the county every year and allocating the funds to departments and offices begins in May and the final pass on the budget heads to the board in December.
Butler took attendees through with a powerpoint on Tuesday, showing pie charts of the county’s revenue and expenses as she described work to increase transparency through an open-to-the-public page on the department’s website that breaks down the various pieces of the budget.
This year, the various department and office increase requests totaled over $2 million. Earlier this month, the board approved $913,645. Of note after frustration from Lewis County Sheriff Rob Snaza over budgeting last year, the sheriff’s office requested a budget increase of $496,921, whereas only $29,067 was approved.
As the county works to move its Community Development and Public Works offices closer to Chehalis and transform those buildings into a night-by-night homeless shelter and animal shelter, about 14% of the budget in 2023 is projected to go toward capital improvements. The current projection shows those improvements costing about $26 million next year. If all goes well with construction, the night-by-night shelter could open as early as April 2023, Butler said.
The largest chunks of the budget go toward salaries and wages for county employees and professional services, accounting for about 25% and 22% of the pie, respectively. Employee benefits account for another 10% on their own.
Repairs and maintenance, debt services, insurance, supplies, operating transfers, miscellaneous expenses and interfund services account for most of the rest of the budget.
Historically, Lewis County has budgeted for more than its spent, said Commissioner Lee Grose, adding “And that’s how it should be.”
He also praised the work of the citizen’s committee, who he felt accurately represented the feelings of county residents because when he looked at their budget proposal, he thought “That’s about how I would have done that.”
Read more about the breakdown of the 2023 budget at https://lewiscountywa.gov/departments/budget/lewis-county-budget/2023-budget/.