County budget gap unresolved

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WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla County commissioners appeared no closer to closing a $1.9 million gap as they ended the second week of meetings on the county’s 2013 budget Friday.

“We’ve got some work to do,” said Commissioner Greg Tompkins at the end of a freewheeling discussion where he and others went over possible ways to close the difference between projected revenues and requested expenditures.

Tompkins and fellow commissioners Perry Dozier and Jim Johnson will resume discussions on the budget Monday during their regular session.

Meetings with department heads and elected officials during the past week and during the last week of September produced no breakthroughs in resolving ways to pare down preliminary budget requests.

Along with the budget requests, commissioners Friday went over a list of unknown costs that could throw even more stress on county finances.

These include looming negotiations with the unions for the commissioned Sheriff’s Office deputies, courthouse employees and corrections officers, pending unfair labor practice claims, potential costs for major trials, unemployment and medical costs and rising bills for indigent defense.

Tompkins said assertions that commissioners are cutting budgets is untrue.

“We don’t cut anyone’s budget. These are requests. A budget cut is when you get less than last year. We haven’t cut anyone’s budget, these are requests for increases,” he said.

Commissioners and two other elected officials, county Auditor Karen Martin and county Treasurer Gordon Heimbigner, also said budget information posted on the county Sheriff’s website has not been verified and appears to be misleading.

“(The figures) have not been audited by this office or by the state Auditor’s office for accuracy,” Martin said.

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