Rylander commentary: Clark County financial trends monitoring report for 2021


I recently received a copy of the July 29, 2022, Clark County financial monitoring report review produced by the auditor’s office. The report presents the 17 fiscal policies as well as performance details.  The full report can be found online at clark.wa.gov/media/document/131106.

The total report is 29 pages. They use a traffic light color concept to “signal” the condition of the financial area: Green is good, yellow is mixed and red is cause for concern. Today, I would like to focus on pages three and four.

Why is this information important for you to understand? It tells you how well (or not) your county government is guiding the ship. You may hear comments about how government is bloated or spending is out of control or taxes are too high. This information will help you understand what’s really going on and separate truth from fiction.

This data covers the period of 2012 to 2021 thus the “trend monitoring” in the title.

Tax revenue per capita (each person), adjusted for inflation and population, has been in the range of $391 to $421 a year. Unadjusted tax revenue per capita has grown from $313 in 2012 to $421 in 2021. (In 2021, it requires $1.29 to buy what $1 did in 2012.)


  • Total government fund expenditures per capita: Adjusting for the consumer price index (CPI),  government fund expenditures declined from $821 in 2012 to $714 in 2021. That’s a 14% decline.
  • General fund expenditures per capita: Adjusted for inflation have decreased from $376 in 2012 to $310 in 2021. That’s an 8% drop.
  • Employees per capita: Adjusted for inflation there has been an overall 12.3% decrease in full time equivalents (FTEs) between 2012 (3.51 per 1,000 population) and 2021 (3.08 per 1,000 population.)

Operating position

  • General fund net change: COVID-19 saw some federal funds come into the mix which affected the last two years. The fund has risen from $17 million to about $24 million.
  • Unassigned fund balance: The general reserve increased from $24.2 million in 2012 to $44.2 million in 2021. Again, federal funds had an impact but will not likely be repeated.
  • Fund liquidity/general fund/road fund: Liquid assets in the general fund increased from $31 million in 2012 to $50 million in 2021. However, the road fund has decreased from $29 million in 2012 to $26.8 million in 2021 as delayed projects started.


  • Long-term debt: Decreased to $57.4 million with the debt per capita decreasing by $161 over the period of 2012 to 2021.
  • Debt service costs: Annual costs decreased $4.7 million in 2021 versus 2020. Costs averaged 4.2% of net operating revenues for the 10-year period. In 2021, it’s worth noting the debt costs were 2.6% of net operating revenue. These are well below the 10% guidelines in fiscal policy.

Economic base

  • Population in unincorporated Clark County grew by 14.7% since 2012 with the total county growth at 19%.
  • Median household income increased $14,000 or 51.1% over the nine-year period.
  • Assessed property values in 2012 were $35.7 billion and in 2021 were $81.9 billion for an increase of 129.7%.
  • Residential/commercial development: In 2021, the value of single family residences (SFR) hit $508 million with commercial hitting $153 million. The year 2021’s commercial one-year increase was 51.3%.
  • Community employment: The 2021 average unemployment rate in Clark County was 5.5% versus the 2020 rate of 8.5% with 2019 being at 4.7%.
  • Taxable sales of goods and services: The one-year increase of 2021 versus 2020 was $1.9 billion. (A lot more people are shopping online?)

Analysis and thoughts

It’s been said by some that the county government is bloated, has too many employees and is inefficient. Based on this report it appears that’s not the case. The facts appear to show a well-run ship with a belt that’s pretty tight.

Is there room for further improvement? If the inflation rate continues at the present levels (plus 15% in the last two years) and given the county has only used the annual allowed 1% property tax increase a few times in recent years, the belt will need to have a new hole punched. The real question may be how well they can manage costs and provide services in the face of hyperinflation.

We need to be constantly on the lookout for efficiencies, ways to minimize costs and operate effectively. We also need to acknowledge good performance and recognize those who help make the county work. You be the judge.


Dick Rylander is currently the county councilor for District 5, which covers North Clark County. He was appointed to the position on May 3, 2022.  He can be reached at richard.rylander@clark.wa.gov. These are his thoughts and comments and may not represent the council or Clark County.