Every two years, the Board of County Councilors is required to adopt a balanced biennial budget. Budget decisions involve difficult choices because dollars are limited. That’s why it’s essential the county has a sense of the public’s priorities.
You can provide input throughout the budget process, from the initial phases through adoption. Each phase brings the budget closer to completion, so becoming involved early is the best way to be effective. Elected officials and department heads generally know in May what their resources will be for the coming biennium, so between May and July is an excellent time to influence their priorities, before they develop specific budget requests.
In addition, by law citizens have three formal opportunities to comment on the budget. They are:
- When departments officially submit budget requests.
- When the county manager’s recommended budget is published.
- When the councilors hold public hearings on the budget.
The budget is developed in even-numbered years for the next two-year biennium. For example, the process begins in spring 2016 for the 2017-2018 biennial budget. Although exact dates may vary, budget development follows this general timeline:
- March Budget staff presents revenue forecasts; county councilors identify their budget priorities.
- July Departments develop budget requests.
- August Departments meet individually with budget staff to discuss their budgets.
- September Elected officials meet in work sessions with the councilors.
- November County manager recommends budget; recommended budget presented to community, departments and Board of County Councilors in work session; recommended budget published.
- December Board of County Councilors holds public hearings to take comments on budget; board adopts budget for upcoming two years.
During this time and when the formal budget process is not under way, staff from the Budget Office is available to make presentations to organizations and community groups to provide information and solicit feedback.
In addition, all work sessions and public hearings about the budget are open to the public. They offer citizens the opportunity to learn specific information and offer comments.
For more information, please call the Budget Office at (360) 397-6097 or email to Adriana.Prata@clark.wa.gov.