Walla Walla County commissioners OK budget, avoids major layoffs

Spending cuts, pay freezes and furloughs are part of the 2011 spending plan.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County commissioners approved a 2011 budget Tuesday, avoiding major layoffs through a combination of spending cuts, freezes and furlough days.

"We have a 2011 budget that's been done over and over and over," commissioner Chairman Gregg Loney said. "My thanks to all the department heads and elected (officials) for making this budget balanced."

Loney and fellow commissioners Perry Dozier and Greg Tompkins also approved the county's tax levies for the county's general, road and emergency medical services funds. Commissioners voted for zero increases in property tax rates for the general and road funds and a 1 percent increase in the EMS levy.

Tuesday's resolutions capped weeks of negotiations with labor unions and discussions with department heads and elected officials over how to balance this year's budget. Loney said earlier this month that at the start of the budget process officials were faced with an estimated $2.1 million gap between budget requests and projected revenues.

As a result of labor negotiations, courthouse employees agreed to take unpaid furlough days during 2011 and sheriff's deputies agreed to take a 12-month deferral on the cost-of-living increase in their pay. The union representing county Public Works Department employees also agreed to concessions on health costs to help hold down costs.

County commissioners and several other elected officials, including Sheriff-elect John Turner, Coroner-elect Richard Greenwood, Assessor-elect Debra Antes and county Auditor Karen Martin, have also voluntarily agreed to turn back part of their salaries to match employee sacrifices.

The budget approved Tuesday projects a total budget of about $76.8 million, only slightly more than the 2010 total. Expenditures are projected to total about $54.3 million, leaving an estimated fund balance of about $22.5 million.

The largest portion of the budget, about 26 percent, is slated for the current expense fund, which pays for much of the county's day-to-day operations. In 2011 that fund is projected to total about $19.7 million. Of that amount, expenditures will total about $15.1 million while $4.6 million has been budgeted to be the ending fund balance.

The next-largest portion of the budget is the county road fund, about $17.5 million in 2011, or about 23 percent of the overall total. The third-largest portion, about 11 percent, is the Human Services Department fund, which will total about $8.3 million in 2011.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318. Check out his blog at blogs.ublabs.org/randomthoughts.

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