Walla Walla Council OKs budget

The spending plan includes drawing down the county's reserve funds.

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WALLA WALLA -- Walla Walla County commissioners approved the county's 2012 budget Tuesday but expressed worries about what next year will bring.

Commissioners also turned down a late request by the Sheriff's Office for an additional $100,347 that Sheriff John Turner said is needed for four programs.

The final budget calls for the county's current expense fund, which pays for much of day-to-day operations, to total $19,025,024 with an ending fund balance of $3,809,890, about 18 percent lower than this year's $4.65 million.

The $3.8 million in 2012 reflects the 25 percent reserve required by a resolution passed by commissioners in 2000 that specifies the equivalent of three months of spending be kept on hand for unanticipated expenses.

Current expense expenditures are projected to increase to $15,215,134 in the coming year while revenues are projected to be $14,375,024, with the difference being taken from this year's ending fund balance. In earlier discussions, commissioners agreed to draw down the ending fund balance to provide county employees with cost of living adjustments in 2012 and eliminate furlough days.

But in a letter to his fellow board members, Commissioner Gregg Loney, who was absent Tuesday, reiterated his concerns about the budget "and its lack of sustainability and the potential reduction of our 25 percent current expense reserve."

Dozier said he was also concerned about drawing down the reserve fund below the 25 percent required by resolution because of the state of the economy. "The last thing I want to see is people losing their jobs at the end of the year," because the county cannot cover a shortfall in its finances, he said.

The budget, including all funds, will total about $80.3 million. That amount includes a beginning fund balance of about $25.6 million combined with projected revenues of about $54.7 million during 2012. Budgeted expenditures are projected to be about $57.9 million, leaving a total ending fund balance of about $22.4 million, a decrease of about $3.2 million from 2011's ending fund balance.

Andy Porter can be reached at andyporter@wwub.com or 526-8318.

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