Grays Harbor County adopts 2024 budget, seeks to close $3.1 million deficit

Projected spending appropriations will deplete county’s cash reserves by half

The Grays Harbor County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday adopted the county’s budget for 2024 as it seeks to crawl out of a multi-million-dollar budget hole.

Commissioners and department heads have worked over the past several months to whittle away at the projected deficit for next year, trimming from projected expenditures in order to preserve as much of the county’s cash reserves as possible.

The projected budget for 2024 predicts the county will have to spend $3.1 million of those reserves by the end of next year to sustain services, which would cut its current $6 million savings account in half. The reserve account will drop to below 16% of 2024 spending — a target the county prefers to maintain in case of the need for emergency cash.

Commissioners and staff are hoping to ease the blow to the county’s cash savings by continuing to create extra savings and efficiencies in the coming months.

“We have to go through with a microscope, a fine-toothed comb,” said Andi Harland, a budget analyst with Grays Harbor County.

Harland recommended on Tuesday commissioners adopt the budget with the deficit and said budget updates about future savings would continue next year.

“At this point, for what we have this year, this is about as good as it’s going to get,” Harland told commissioners.

The budget was adopted Tuesday following a public hearing by commissioners Jill Warne and Kevin Pine. Commissioner Vickie Raines was not present to vote at the meeting.

The projected budget approved on Tuesday predicts the county will garner $39.9 million in revenue next year. Meanwhile, it has appropriated nearly $43 million in spending. By dipping into cash savings, the county will drop below its target to keep the account at 16% of annual spending.

The projected deficit continues a trend from recent years in which the county has dealt with rising costs for staffing and services and a confined ability to generate revenue through property taxes.

Commissioners voted on Tuesday to raise the general fund property tax levy rate by 1% in 2024, which will add about $124,000 to the general fund. About 10% of property tax money levied by the county contributes to general fund services, while most of it is distributed to other services.

The board also voted for a 1% raise to the levy that funds county roads. State law restricts taxing districts in Washington from raising property tax levies by more than 1% per year. Commissioners pointed out that the restricted rate has not kept pace with inflation, one reason why spending has consistently exceeded the county’s revenue.

“Pretty much any project that we’ve taken on in this last year, the cost has skyrocketed,” said County Commissioner Kevin Pine.

The projected budget estimates the county will spend $28.5 million on salaries and benefits in 2024, and $14 million on goods and services, with the sheriff’s department, corrections department and prosecutor’s office garnering the most appropriations.

Harland said some cash should flow back into the county’s savings at the end of the year as it leaves open several vacant positions it has currently budgeted for, although the exact amount is undetermined.

The approved budget accounts for a potential shift to the county’s management services department that could include adding a county administrator to the payroll. Commissioners earlier this year hired a consultant to assist with the recruitment of a county administrator but have not moved past that stage.

Commissioner Raines expressed concern at a budget workshop last week about hiring a county administrator, which could cost about $250,000. Raines said she was not opposed to hiring an administrator; she was not comfortable doing so given the dire budget scenario.

“At this time, I think it’s a luxury,” Raines said.

“I just want to be able to get this number down and be able to sleep at night. Right now it’s the worst budget we’ve had since I’ve worked here,” Raines said last week. She was first elected in 2014.

Harland said that while the administrator position has been budgeted for, commissioners can make the decision whether or not to add the position to the payroll later.

Pine and Commissioner Jill Warne said adding the administrator position could end up saving the county money by cutting inefficiencies and absorbing some of the duties of other department heads.

“I feel very confident that that person is going to find savings that will more than pay for the position,” Pine said.

Contact reporter Clayton Franke at 406-552-3917 or

*This article has been updated to reflect that County Commissioner Vickie Raines was not present for the vote on Tuesday in which the Board of County Commissioner’s adopted the 2024 budget.