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Another public defender may be added to judicial budget

One of the discussion items before the Sunnyside City Council Monday night at its budget study session was the 2005 judicial budget for the municipal court system.

The proposed judicial budget for 2005 totals $239,940, a slight increase from the 2004 amount of $229,140.

The largest expenditure in the judicial budget is for salaries and wages, $106,810. This is up slightly from the 2004 amount of $106,150.

Salary increases in 2005 are set to be minimal, but the area for personal benefits saw a $6,200 increase ($42,740) from 2004. Finance Director Bud Schatz said the reason for the difference between the salary increase and personal benefits is that the city will incur extra costs for such benefits as medical and retirement.

Another significant line item in the judicial budget is under other services and charges, which as proposed will total $74,990 in 2005. Sunnyside City Manager Bob Stockwell said this money goes towards paying the retainer the city has for its public defender and prosecutor. Stockwell said he will bring back at a future Council meeting a discussion to hire an additional public defender at a cost of $2,200 per month. Stockwell wants to use the money the city will receive from the 3/10's of 1 percent sales tax increase Yakima County voters recently approved for the new position.

The budget proposal also includes a $300 pay increase for the city's municipal court judge, Steve Michels. Stockwell said the pay increase will help align Michels' salary with that of other judges in Yakima County.

Councilman Bruce Ricks recommended the city increase its fee structure for fines to help bring in additional revenue.

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