Public safety, reserve funds a focus in 2018 Yakima city budget proposals

Public safety, reserve funds a focus in 2018 Yakima city budget proposals

YAKIMA, Wash. -- Every nickle and dime counts as Yakima City Council prepares to go over budget proposals for all city departments in the next few weeks.

City officials are currently drafting next year's budget, which will be considered in October. But they said the community's input is just as important.

Councilmembers are aiming to fix the city's financial hole over the next few years. The city is short $5 million in its reserve fund that should be at $12 million.

City savings is the council's primary 2018 budget focus, according to City Manager Cliff Moore.

"Our first biggest challenge is to rebuild our fund balance - that's really our reserve, and our general fund," said Moore.

The reserve is currently hovering at $7.2 million. Moore said he hopes to boost it to $8 million by the end of next year, as senior staff spend modestly and carefully.

"Revenues are coming in about where expected," said Moore. "Expenditures are a little bit lower than expected and that helps us rebuild that reserve."

The city's total budget this year is about $238 million, with $78 million going to a general fund that pays for departments including law enforcement; fire protection; economic development, and other areas.

"Public safety is always our number one and largest budgeting area," said Yakima Mayor Kathy Coffey. "The fact that we used 75 percent of our overtime budget already by June is a concern, so we will be looking at how we are going to adjust to that."

An overtime budget that added more police on the streets after a wave of violent crime earlier this year.

Now, back-to-back structure fires and wildfires this summer has also been a costly dent to finances.

"We've got a lot of things that we have to fund," said Moore. "There's a lot of things happening in the community we want to take care of."

But Moore said budget goals are attainable. He said as much as $4 million could be added to the reserve fund over the next several years with the right plan in place.

City leaders said ideas and feedback from the community have also been helpful. If you're not able to attend a city council meeting, city officials said you can go on the city website and contact your councilmember here.

The community can also participate in two public hearings that will be held after proposals are reviewed in October.

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