Times appear to be getting leaner financially for Chelan County.

On Monday, the county’s board of commissioners adopted its preliminary operating budget for 2023.

For the third straight year, the package includes the use of money from the county’s reserve fund to pencil out, as well as a 1% overall increase in property tax collections, including new construction.

A majority of the county’s funding for its operating budget comes from property and sales tax revenues, but commissioner Kevin Overbay says these instruments aren’t especially flexible and are proving less able to help in keeping up with the municipality’s financial requirements.

“We can’t look at raising property taxes any further because that’s capped. There are restrictions with what we can do with the sales tax revenue we generate. So both of these revenue streams have sideboards on them. Our industrial investments, which we have been very good about making in the last couple of years, will assist our bottom line in the future – but not today.”

The county has scheduled the utilization of $5 million from its reserve fund for the 2023 budget, $3.2 million of which is being carried forward from the last two years.

The county’s departments have requested $51.8 million for next year, which marks an increase of roughly $2 million. However, county revenues are only projected to be at $46.7 million for 2023, which includes the 1% hike in property taxes.

Commissioner Tiffany Gering says she’s concerned about an increase in cuts to everything from county services to personnel in the coming years if new revenue sources cannot be identified to help balance the county’s future budgets.

“If we can’t figure out solutions, this gap is just going to continue to grow, and we are going to have to make cuts.”

The commissioners have already gone through next year’s budget line-by-line over the past week and identified roughly $2 million in cuts.

No staff are among those reductions, however, there were several employment vacancies within the county that have now been eliminated.

The county estimates its reserve fund will remain in excess of $10 million at least through next year.

The final budget hearing is slated for December 12, and the finished budget must be adopted by the county no later than December 19.

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