Budgeting in Washington State
Cities, counties, and certain special purpose districts in Washington State are required to adopt budgets on an annual or, in some cases, biennial (two-year) basis. These budgets not only provide legal authority to expend funds for various purposes, but they also reflect the legislative body's priorities and the organization's goals.
For all cities and counties, and most special purpose districts, the fiscal year runs from January 1 to December 31, unlike the State of Washington's fiscal period which runs from July 1 to June 30. Budget season typically kicks into high gear in the summer, culminating with the adoption of next year's budget no later than December 31. (School districts and educational service districts have a fiscal year from September 1 to August 31.)
In addition, MRSC recommends that local governments review and update their financial policies as part of the pre-budget process to make sure the policies are still relevant and meet the jurisdictions' objectives.
MRSC provides many resources, listed below, to help guide local governments through the budget process. Some of these resources are relatively static and change little from year to year, while others are updated more frequently, culminating with the release of a new Budget Suggestions publication every year at the end of July.
General Budgeting Information
- Introduction to Budgeting
- Glossary of Budget Terms
- City and Town Budget Procedures – Step-by-step overview of the required city budget procedures, along with tips and recommendations
- City and Town Budget Calendar – Calendar listing of statutory deadlines for developing and adopting the budget; includes sample city budget planning calendars
- County Budget Procedures – Step-by-step overview of the required county budget procedures, along with tips and recommendations
- County Budget Calendar – Calendar listing of statutory deadlines for developing and adopting the budget; includes sample county budget planning calendars
- Biennial Budgeting
- Budget Policies
- Performance Measurement – Includes budget monitoring and reporting
- 2023 Budget Suggestions – Contains the latest information about state shared revenue distributions, new legislation, and economic trends. New version published every year at the end of July.
- Revenue Guide for Cities and Towns – Detailed guidance on all major city revenue sources
- Revenue Guide for Counties – Detailed guidance on all major county revenue sources
Financial Policies (Pre-Budget)
- Financial Policies Tool Kit – Detailed guidance and key questions to consider for a number of budget-related fiscal topics
- Shared Revenue Estimator – Tool to help cities and counties estimate their anticipated per capita state shared revenues for the coming budget year; updated every year in late July when Budget Suggestions is published
- Tax and Population Data – Population, property tax, and sales tax trends for each city and county, as well as current breakdown of local sales tax rates and components for each city and county
- Implicit Price Deflator – Impacts property tax levy setting for local governments with a population of 10,000 or more
- Consumer Price Index – Includes current and recent CPI-U and CPI-W data for U.S. and Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue region
- Local Ballot Measure Database – See what other jurisdictions have attempted similar ballot measures and how they fared
- Budget Preparation Checklist for Small Entities
- Budget Document Scorecard – Completely revamped in 2020!
- Sample Budget Request Letter
- Sample Budget Message
- Sample Budget Ordinance
- Sample Document Library: Budgets – Browse through local government budgets that have been submitted to MRSC
- City and Town Profiles – Find links to the current budget for a specific city or town, if available. (Click on the city's name to expand it, then look for the "Budget" link.)
- County Profiles – Find links to the current budget for a specific county, if available.
Recent Blog Posts
- Recent blog posts about budgeting – Articles written by MRSC staff and contributors about specific aspects of budgeting, such as budget hearings, budget amendments, and legislative changes that might impact your budget. Articles are listed in reverse chronological order, with the most recent first.