Walla Walla County budget talks continue

Commissioners heard a request for an hike in the Sheriff's Office budget for four programs.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County commissioners continued their discussion of the 2012 budget Monday.

Along with a brief discussion on cost of living allowances for non-union employees, commissioners met with Shanda Zessin, the Sheriff's Office administrative division commander, about the sheriff's request for additional funds for four programs.

The Sheriff's Office is seeking a $100,347 increase in its budget for the Marijuana Eradication Contract, the Methamphetamine Initiative, the Safe Boating Program and a contract with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide additional law enforcement for a Corps-operated park near Burbank.

Commissioners Gregg Loney, Greg Tompkins and Perry Dozier said they want to see the programs continue, but were wrestling with how to provide the additional funds.

"I don't want to see these programs disappear," Dozier said. He said "the only thing I'm up against the wall with" is whether to pay for the programs out of the county's current expense fund or pull down reserves.

During the discussion, Tompkins said he could not see how commissioners could provide both the money for the programs as well one-time requests Sheriff John Turner has also said are needed.

"We can't do the whole thing," Tompkins said. "If this is the most important thing, then some of the one-time expenditures come off the table."

Tompkins went on to say he would be willing to fund the programs "out of deference to the new sheriff" for one year, "but next year it may be a different story," if the economy does not improve.

Toward the end of the discussion, commissioners directed Connie Vinti, the clerk of the board, to draft a resolution reflecting the commissioners' agreeing to pull the money for the programs out of reserves and, in turn, limit consideration of the Sheriff's one-time expenses.

Commissioners also asked Zessin to have the Sheriff's Office prioritize its one-time requests to reflect which ones are most urgent.

"Pare it down to bare essentials," Tompkins said.

Adoption of the budget will be on the agenda for the commissioners' next meeting, which is Tuesday.

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