Every two years the county is required to adopt a balanced biennial budget. Budget decisions involve difficult choices because there are limited dollars to spend. That’s why it’s essential for the county to have a sense of the public’s priorities.
You can provide input throughout the budget process, from the initial phases through adoption by the Board of Clark County Commissioners. Each phase of the process brings the budget closer to completion, so becoming involved early is the best way to be effective. Elected officials and department heads generally know what their resources will be for the coming biennium in May, so between May and July is an excellent period to influence their priorities, before they develop their specific budget requests.
In addition to working with departments early in the process, by law there are three formal opportunities for citizens to comment on the budget:
- When departments officially submit their budget requests.
- When the county administrator’s recommended budget is published.
- When the commissioners 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 2006 for the 2007-2008 biennial budget. Although exact dates may vary, development of the budget follows this general timeline:
- March Budget staff presents revenue forecasts; county commissioners 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 commissioners.
- November County administrator recommends budget; recommended budget presented to community, departments, and Board of Clark County Commissioners in work session; recommended budget published.
- December Board of Clark County Commissioners holds public hearings to take input on budget; commissioners adopt budget for upcoming two years.
During this time period as well as when the formal budget process is not under way, staff from the Office of Budget and Information Services is available to make presentations to organizations and community groups — to provide information and solicit feedback. In some years, surveys are used to gather citizen input, too.
In addition, all of the work sessions and public hearings regarding the county’s budget are open to the public. They offer citizens the opportunity for finding out specific information about the budget and for offering comments.
For a detailed schedule of the budget process or to arrange an appointment or presentation to a group, please call the county’s Office of Budget and Information Services at (360) 397-6097 or send an e-mail to Jim.Dickman@clark.wa.gov.