County budget proposes big drop in spending

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Whatcom County Executive Satpal Sidhu released a proposed $451.6 million budget for 2021-2022 with a roughly 17 percent decrease in total expenditures from the county’s amended 2020 budget.

Due to a hiring freeze in March 2020 and other cost-saving measures, along with federal CARES Act funds, the county does not expect to make layoffs, Sidhu said in a message about the budget.

The general fund, which funds most general government services, including law enforcement, public defense, health, parks, land use planning and building inspections, would get a 5.3 percent cut for 2021.

The biggest cut in expenditures from the 2020 amended budget is in the “All Other Funds” category and much of that is due to a drop in the “Covid-19 Emergency Response” fund, which was funded by $13.1 million in CARES Act funds from the federal government for 2020. The budget would also cut about $10 million from the county road fund.

The budget is based on the county’s financial forecast, which predicts a decline in revenue driven mostly by a decline in sales tax collections.

The budget does include several new expenses, such as $300,000 for child and family services, $500,000 for water settlement negotiations and $130,000 to establish a racial justice commission.

The county council’s finance committee will discuss the recommended budget at a meeting on Tuesday, October 27. After public hearings, which are not yet scheduled, council will adopt a final 2021-2022 budget on Tuesday, November 24.

Find more details on the county’s proposed budget and planning process here.

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