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FAQ

  1. How much is the 2013/2014 budget?
  2. What are the county's priorities?
  3. What are the major issues facing the county?
  4. Where does the county get money to provide public services?
  5. Where do property taxes go?
  6. How much of the property tax paid by a citizen living in an unincorporated area goes to the county?;
  7. What is the General Fund?
  8. What does the county spend money on?
  9. Where does the majority of the county budget go?
  10. How much of the budget is spent on salaries?
  11. How many staff are employed by the county employ?
  12. What are the county's budget objectives?
  13. What is the financial condition of the county?
  14. How is the budget developed?
  15. When and how is the budget adopted?
  16. What opportunity do people have to influence the county budget?
  17. How is the county organized?

1. How much is the 2013/2014 budget?

The 2013/2014 budget is $848.3 million. View the Budget in Brief (PDF).

2. What are the county’s priorities?

The functions of county government are largely determined by state statute. Community priorities shape how these services are delivered. The framework for delivery of services has been identified by the Board of County Commissioners and other elected officials as:

Mission statement: To better serve the will of the people.

Guiding principles:
- Safety
- Sustainability
- Transparency

The Strategic Planning (PDF) section provides detailed information about the county’s goals and challenges.

3. What are the major issues facing the county?

The economy is improving slowly but Clark County still lags behind other communities in our region and well behind the nation as a whole.  For example, sales tax revenue remains 18 percent below levels posted in 2008. The prior biennium budget for 2009/2010 budget was adopted and repeatedly revised downward during a period of economic upheaval and uncertainty unlike any other since the 1930s. 

In all, the 2011/12 General Fund budget was cut 22 percent, or $62 million, from its peak in 2007/2008. The county cut 270 jobs, or about 15 percent of our workforce, through layoffs, retirements, resignations, and elimination of vacant positions.  Expenses were decreased by reducing hours and pay for about 200 employees.  Management salaries were frozen throughout the biennium.  General wage freezes for non-management employees began in 2010 and are projected to continue at least through 2011. Learn more about the county's critical issues (PDF) in achieving its goals.

4. Where does the county get money to provide public services?

The county gets revenue from a variety of sources.

  • Local and state sources include property taxes, sales taxes, real estate excise taxes, fuel taxes, and other taxes such as the gambling tax and the timber tax.
  • State and federal revenues are mainly grants from the state and federal governments.
  • Private sources include permit fees, court fines, payments for licenses, maps and other goods and services.

Learn more about county revenue in the Revenue Analysis (PDF).

5. Where do property taxes go?

Like other counties, Clark County collects and distributes all the property taxes levied by government bodies within the county's boundaries. But not all the property taxes collected remain within the county; only a portion pays for county programs.

If you live in an unincorporated area of Clark County, county government typically accounts for about one-third of your property tax bill. If you're a city resident, Clark County's portion is about one-eighth of your bill. Other entities that depend heavily on property taxes are school districts and city governments.

Here's how property tax is allocated for county residents:

  • State and local school support 58%
  • Libraries 3%
  • Fire Districts and Ports 14%
  • County (including Road Fund) 25%

6. How much of the property tax paid by a citizen living in an unincorporated area goes to the county?

About 25 percent of your property taxes come to the county for county services. The majority - 58 percent - goes to state and local school support.

7. What is the General Fund?

The General Fund contains non-restricted funds that can be spent for a wide range of services. It is the only part of the county budget where the commissioners have discretion about spending. It pays for many of the key services that residents receive from the county such as Sheriff’s patrols, judges, prosecutors, jails, courts, elections and parks. Learn more about the General Fund. (PDF)

8. What does the county spend its money on?

Every time you drive down the road, visit a park, vote in an election, or see deputies protecting our community, your tax dollars are hard at work.

Clark County funds services in nine major areas including Public Works, Law and Justice, Community Services, General Government, Public Health, Community Development. Internal Support, Fiscal Entities and Capital and Debt. View the Expenditure Analysis (PDF) for more information.

9. Where does the majority of the county budget go?

The big three service areas include:

  • Public Works with a two-year budget of $225,982,039
  • Law and Justice at $220,523,379.
  • General Government at $98,054,506

10. How much of the budget is spent on salaries?

$301,766,797 of the total budget - or 35.5 percent - is for salary and benefits.

11. How many staff are employed by the county?

The staff authorized by the commissioners for 2013/2014 is 1,602.85. The largest employer is the Sheriff with 392 full-time employees.

12. What are the county’s budget objectives?

The county’s budget objectives are to:

  • Support the priorities of long-range and operational plans.
  • Ensure growth in programs is consistent with projected revenues.
  • Maintain a stable and healthy financial foundation.
  • Respond to critical service demands, and community priorities.
  • Support the priorities of the Capital Improvement Plan.

More about the county’s goals and objectives can be found in the Strategic Planning (PDF) section.

13. What is the financial condition of the county?

Revenue indicators reflect the uncertainty related to the current economic slowdown that we are experiencing. Many of the revenues continue to be impacted by the economic slowdown, particularly the decline in construction activity. Tax revenues per capita declined in 2009 for the second consecutive year. Property tax limitation measures, flat intergovernmental revenues, excise, and sales tax revenues contributed to the decline. 

Positive signs reported in the Financial Trends Report are that the County continues to adequately maintain roads, buildings, and other assets; fund balance in the Road Fund continues to increase; long-term debt is the lowest it has been since prior to 2004 and short term debt was minimal at the end of 2009. Also, most intergovernmental revenues (grants) continue to remain stable and enterprise funds continue to have total revenues and other sources of funds that exceed total expenditures on a consistent basis. More detailed information is available in the Financial Overview. (PDF)

14. How is the budget developed?

State law establishes the general requirements of Clark County’s budget process. By law, many revenues must be spent in specific ways. This limits how we can spend or cut costs to balance our budget.

The Budget Office facilitates development of the budget. All department heads and elected officials develop and submit their budget requests by early September in the first year of the biennium (even numbered years). After their requests are reviewed, the County Administrator recommends a budget to the Board of Clark County Commissioners (BOCC) in early November. From there the BOCC holds hearings to adopt a budget. The Departments' original budget requests as well as the County Administrator's recommended budgets are published. The Auditor's Office maintains legal responsibility and authority for overseeing and controlling the expenditure of money once it has been budgeted by the Commissioners. Learn more about the budget process. (PDF)

15. When and how is the budget adopted?
Each even numbered year, the commissioners adopt a biennial budget for the following two-year period by the end of the first full week in December. Public hearings begin on Monday and adoption occurs no later than Friday of that week. Before the end of the first year of the biennium, the commissioners re-adopt the budget.

16. What opportunity do people have to influence the county budget?

The Budget Office provides information throughout the year on the budget, uses public surveys and focus groups and uses meetings to involve citizens in shaping the budget. Contact us at (360) 397-6097 or e-mail lisa.boman@clark.wa.gov to get involved.

17. How is the county organized?

The voters of Clark County elect 25 officials, including 3 County Commissioners, 10 Superior Court Judges, 6 District Court Judges, an Assessor, a Treasurer, an Auditor, a Prosecuting Attorney, a Sheriff and a County Clerk.

The Board of Commissioners appoints a County Administrator, who acts as the chief administrative officer for the county. Reporting to the County Administrator are the heads of 15 non-elected departments: Board of Equalization, Budget, Community Development, Community Planning, Community Services, Environmental Services, Geographic Information System, Information Services, Public Health, General Services, Human Resources, Medical Examiner, Public Information and Outreach, and Public Works. Learn more about the county's organization and responsibilities. (PDF)

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Budget Manager: Robert Stevens
Street address: 1300 Franklin Street, 6th Floor, Vancouver, WA 98666
Mailing address: P.O. Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98660-5000
Main phone: (360) 397-6097
Relay 711 or (800) 833-6388
Responsible Elected Official: Board of Clark County Commissioners

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