YAKIMA - Yakima County's rural status has led state legislators to allow the county to retain an extra one-tenth of 1 percent of sales tax revenues.
Previously, the county could keep back .08 percent for infrastructural improvements, now it can hold on to .09.
During a public hearing yesterday, county community services director Steve Hill described how the windfall will mean an additional $300,000 each year for improvements to bridges, roads, and water/sewer utilities to help bring about economic development.
Hill said the extra funds could also be designated for use by port districts to assist with projects geared towards economic development.
The extra funds could be included in county monies in the Supporting Investments in Economic Development (SIED) fund that since 1999 has generated $17 million around the county for a total of 61 projects related to new business and job growth.
County Commissioner Ron Gamache said efforts are made to ensure that SIED funds are distributed throughout the county, to both Lower and Upper Valley areas, as well as both large and rural communities.
An example of SIED's impact was on the commissioner's agenda yesterday, as the county approved a $450,000 grant/loan package for the Port of Sunnyside's East Edison business park. The funds will go towards curb, gutter, sidewalk and utility improvements for a portion of the park that will serve a new medical clinic.
"It's a jump start for our economy," Hill said of the extra funds. "It can help bring more business and jobs into the county's economy."
Following a public hearing on the extra funds yesterday, county commissioners will take action within the next few weeks to change county rules in reflecting the extra funds.