Four Thurston County employees will be laid off and two vacant positions will be eliminated as a result of the hold the line, $300.4 million budget county commissioners adopted Friday.
Staffers in the Planning Department and the Prosecutors Office as well as two Thurston County Fair staff members are being laid off. A vacant roads position and a permitting technician position also are being eliminated.
Two of the employees have yet to receive notification from their union, according to Robin Campbell, county budget and fiscal manager.
The last major layoffs were in 2009 and 2010, she said, when the county cut 168 positions, half of which were staffed.
The adopted budget includes a 2.24 percent cost-of-living adjustment for the remaining county employees. It also provides for the hire of two new sheriffs deputies, who will be needed as deputies take over crash response from the Washington State Patrol next year.
The two county fair layoffs tie in directly with the countys plans to save the fair, which was on the verge of shutting down because of insufficient funding.
The adopted budget includes a $50,000 stipend to the fair from the $90.7 million general fund half of what it was looking for to continue current operations in 2013. Instead of providing the full amount, the county plans to move its Parks and Recreation Department and the Washington State University Extension Office away from its current location off Mud Bay Road. Some of those offices will be moved to the countys Tilley Road campus, while the rest will be moved to a building on the fairgrounds.
The Mud Bay Road property will then be sold and the money earned reinvested in revitalizing the fair, according to Don Krupp, county manager.
Its a challenging change, but I am excited to be able to find the opportunity along these lines that doesnt encumber the general fund further, Krupp said. It doesnt affect the ability to do other things.
The bulk of the budget focuses on moving operations of the current jail to the new Accountability and Restitution Center, which was slated to open in late January or early February.
The new goal is to open it by the end of July, Krupp said.
By and large we felt we were getting close to meeting that particular goal (of opening by early February), but there are a number of things we know wont be ready by that time, Krupp said. Our main goal is to make sure we are all ready and prepared to open up the facility safely.
The county is going into 2013 with a $15 million balance in the general fund, Krupp said, but is looking cautiously toward its bleak financial future.
I worry about our ability to maintain our capacity in the future, Krupp said.
Campbell said the county will use between $4 million and $5 million of its general fund balance built up over the past few years.
If we dont make some pretty substantial changes in the course of the next two years, the general fund balance will just continue to deteriorate, Campbell said. My concern is we really cant do that. We just cant.
Campbell said they will look for less obvious forms of revenue in 2014 and look for more areas to trim services provided by the county.
To maintain financial stability, we will every three or four years be in a position where we will be looking at cyclical reductions, Krupp said. With the cost of services continuing to increase and a lack of revenue to support that, the only way you can reconcile that is to cut back on services.
Chelsea Krotzer: 360-754-5476 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/thisjustin @chelseakrotzer