Is it biennial or biannual?

While many of you were picking up turkeys and baking pies for Thanksgiving, late into last Tuesday night our Council was approving the 2018 budget that will provide our spending plan for next year. I’m excited for the new year and new initiatives to begin!

The final unanimous vote was months in the making and the process actually began only days after the supplemental budget was finalized in June.  While the process was very long, the final product is good for the County and good for our residents.

We are making significant investments in key areas such as public safety and behavioral health. In addition, we’ve directed funds to an important compensation study and greater resources for employee training.

I want to acknowledge the many County employees and elected officials who contributed to getting the budget over the finish line.

First, every department director and the separately elected officials across the County submitted their 2018 work plans and budget requests to our Finance department.  As a follow up, they met with a team from the Executive’s office to discuss their department goals in greater detail.

And, speaking of the folks on the 7th floor, my thanks to those who spent countless hours in that small, windowless conference room carefully evaluating requests and balancing needs versus limited resources. I’m certainly biased but I am immensely proud of the comprehensive budget we delivered to the Council, and that team’s review and consultation were incredibly important.

Gary Robinson, Jim Dickman and Julie Demuth of the Finance department have earned special praise and appreciation for their stellar work on the budget.  I’m happy for them that the nights and weekends are done – for now.

Lastly, our Councilmembers deserve appreciation for their thoughtful consideration of the budget we submitted. While we didn’t agree on every element, they heard our perspective and priorities with care and respect.

I can’t begin to tally the number of hours that collectively went into proposing, preparing and passing the 2018 budget.  A low estimate would be in the hundreds of hours.  That’s hundreds of hours that could be spent on acting on the budget – working on priority projects, meeting with partners across the county and refining processes that save time and money for our residents.

That’s why I believe we should consider the possibility of shifting to a biennial (every other year) budget.  We would save a tremendous amount of time and still have the opportunity to make adjustments or needed additions during the annual supplemental budget process.  Making this kind of change has a number of implications that must be carefully considered but after participating in this year’s budget process, I’m a strong advocate for evaluating it.

The state of Washington and many municipalities already operate in this manner and I think it’s a budget process well worth considering.

What do you think?