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Sunnyside city budget approved

A short-handed Sunnyside City Council made it official Monday night, adopting the 2005 city budget.

Councilmen Jim Restucci and Paul Garcia were absent from Monday night's special meeting. Garcia, though, provided Council with written comments on his thoughts about the 2005 budget. Restucci was home ill.

"I regret that I can't be present tonight," wrote Garcia. "But I want everyone to know that I fully support the budget that will be approved tonight. I also understand that some difficult choices had to be made, but they were necessary to establish a stable foundation that the city will be able to build upon in the coming years."

Prior to Council adopting the 2005 budget, City Manager Bob Stockwell went over some of the highlights of the budget.

Expenditures within the city in 2005 are projected to be $29.5 million. The city is expected to collect $27.4 million in revenue with an additional $2.1 million coming in from the general property tax levy, said Stockwell.

Of the money generated from the 2005 property tax, $1.5 million is earmarked for the operation of the city government with the remaining $625,970 paying off the general obligation bonds.

The city will start 2005 with a beginning cash balance of just over $7 million. Stockwell anticipates that amount to be the ending cash balance at the end of the year.

The current expense fund for 2005, which is used to pay for basic city services, totals $6.8 million, of which $4 million accounts for salaries and personal benefits for city employees. It is anticipated the current expense fund will have a 2005 ending fund balance of $1.1 million.

Other major expenditures in the current expense fund include $2.1 million for law enforcement, of which $1.7 million is set aside for salaries and personal benefits.

A majority of the expenditures in the 2005 budget are in the sewer division of the public works department. Council approved the $13.8 million sewer enterprise budget, $11 million of which is for improvements to the wastewater treatment plant. Another $6.4 million is earmarked for the operation of the city's water system.

The city absorbed some unexpected costs with taking over the operation of the Sunnyside Community Center. The city, which owns the community center, had a management contract that the Washington State Migrant Council terminated in late November. Having to operate the center itself, the city will incur an additional $63,000 in expenses next year, said Stockwell. He conservatively expects the city to pull in $30,000 in revenue by renting out the center to private groups.

The city now operates the parks and recreation department out of the community center.

The most significant personnel change in the 2005 budget was the elimination of Parks and Recreation Department Director Tom Byers. Byers' last day with the city is Dec. 31. Stockwell, at one of the earlier budget sessions, estimated the city would save $25,000 next year with the elimination of Byers' position. Byers' salary with benefits in 2004 totaled $80,018. Stockwell is planning to replace Byers' position with the new title of parks and recreation coordinator. To fund that position, $64,403 will be needed in 2005. The budget for the parks and recreation department is $603,450.

It was anticipated during budget discussions that the police department would not be filling four vacancies to help alleviate the city's $393,910 revenue shortfall. But, Police Chief Ed Radder devised a plan to utilize the money the city will be receiving from a 3/10's of 1 percent sales tax Yakima County voters approved for law enforcement to fill three of the positions. The corrections department budget for 2005, which provides jail services, is $538,050.

The fire department will be cutting one position next year following the return of two firefighters currently serving in Iraq. The firefighter with the least seniority will be let go around the middle of next year. The budget for the fire department is $598,870, which includes the addition of a $3,400 grant the city received to provide training.

The budget for the city council in 2005 totals $38,210. This fund covers the expense of paying council members for each meeting they attend and other expenses.

The planning and community development department, which includes City Engineer Jim Bridges, has a 2005 operating budget of $208,460.

Mayor Ed Prilucik commended the work of the city staff in coming up with a workable budget in difficult financial times.

"The City of Sunnyside pulled together from the top on down," said Prilucik. "It was a tough year. We are hoping for better years in the future."

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