Move to 2-year budget expected to save county time and money

The first biennial spending plan will be adopted in 2022, offering staffers breathing room.

EVERETT — Snohomish County staffers typically only have about a month after the annual budget is approved before they have to start thinking ahead to the next year’s spending plan.

A new policy will eventually give them some breathing room.

The County Council on Wednesday unanimously voted to budget expenditures and revenues on a biennial basis, instead of each year, in an effort to save staff time and taxpayer money.

The new budgeting process won’t take effect for a few years, though. The first biennial budget, for 2023 and 2024, will be adopted at the end of 2022.

“The idea is that you do all that work in one year and then in the next year you don’t have the same staff time that needs to be put into it because you’ve done all that the previous year,” said County Councilman Nate Nehring.

Officials also hope that the biennial process will allow more time for staff and elected leaders to think critically about the county’s long-term goals and budget money accordingly.

“We think it will be, at the end of the day, way more efficient,” said County Executive Dave Somers. “We’re pretty much in budget season every day of every year. This will give us a little bit of an advantage. We can look out a little further.”

Other localities, including Pierce County and many cities in Snohomish County, have reaped the benefits of a two-year budget cycle, according to a county news release.

The county’s 2020 budget, adopted in November, was the first to exceed $1 billion.

At Wednesday’s County Council meeting, Nehring advocated for waiting a few years before the first biennial budget to give staff time to plan and adapt before the transition is made.

“This just gives us more time to make sure when we move towards the biennial budget, it’s done the right way, and it’s not rushed,” he said.

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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