Layoffs likely with new county budget

YAKIMA - The Board of Yakima County Commissioners adopted a $264 million budget for 2011 earlier this week and are expecting a surplus of $1.1 million, which will be used to shore up reserves and the county's election fund.

The budget is projected to have a surplus, but in order to make that happen commissioners had to freeze wages for non-represented employees. Also, Yakima County Budget Director Craig Warner said lay-offs are on the horizon.

The $264 million budget includes approximately $50.5 million in the general fund, the only area where commissioners could make cuts.

Warner said that going into 2010 the commissioners were very concerned about projected revenues for the year. During the year the commissioners made a budget amendment and cut $1.3 million in spending, the first time commissioners have made a mid-year budget cut since 1993.

Warner said the commissioners did this to keep cash reserves at 11 percent of the 2010 budget.

During 2010 commissioners realized that the projected revenues were falling short by $1.1 million, which came out of reserves.

For the 2011 budget, commissioners slashed general fund expenditures by more than $500,000. Projected revenues went up by more than $350,000, which should leave a surplus of $1,085,923.

By law the commissioners in 2011 must pay back 50 percent of the reserves they took in 2010 and the rest in 2012.

Warner said commissioners will put $618,000 of the projected surplus into reserves and the rest will be put into the election fund, to shore up reserves in 2012.

All non-represented county employees and elected officials will have their wages froze for 2011. There will be no market adjustment for wages or step increases.

Warner said one union came to the county commissioners in 2010 and asked them to show leadership by not increasing the pay for elected officials. Commissioners went one step further and included non-represented employees. They then asked the unions to make the same commitment, but were turned down.

The move saved $237,945 this past year but labor costs still rose by $460,275, due to union employees receiving step increases. Warner said union employees do not get market adjustments on their salaries.

Lay-offs in 2011 are certain, Warner said, but whom and when these employees are laid-off is up in the air.

He said the commissioners will release the departmental budgets to the elected officials, such as the sheriff, the county treasurer and the county auditor, and they will have to 'live within their means'. This means, Warner said, that departments will not be able to ask for more money in 2011. If the department heads can run their departments with what was budgeted, no lay-offs will be needed. If they can't, then some employees will have to be let go.

The decision, Warner said, will be entirely up to the elected official.

Furloughs haven't been discussed, Warner said. He added that furloughs are only a short-term solution and are not viable for the long-term.

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