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County dips into reserves to balance general fund budget

YAKIMA - Yakima County commissioners adopted a $51.3 million general fund budget for 2012 this past Tuesday.

The general fund covers the county's day-to-day operations, and to balance that fund for 2012 commissioners agreed to take $246,000 out of general fund reserves.

That's according to Commissioner Rand Elliott, who represents an area that includes the Lower Valley. He says the money will be paid back into the reserve fund over the next 18 months.

Yakima County has a policy that requires maintaining 11 percent of the general fund in reserve because property tax revenue is only received twice a year. The reserves are in place to help tide the county over between tax payments.

Elliott said the withdrawal from reserves in 2012 will temporarily drop the fund to 10.71 percent, or about $5.4 million.

The county's overall budget for next year stands at $258.1 million, a decrease of about 3 percent from 2011.

The decrease is made possible in part by cutting $7 million from the jail budget and another $8.5 million from capital expenditures compared to 2011.

There is some good news for 2012, as Elliott said the county anticipates $220,000 more in property tax revenues and an additional $175,000 from increased property taxes on parcels with new construction.

Like other local governments, though, Yakima County is also keeping an eye on what lawmakers do in Olympia. Elliott said the county could potentially face up to $1 million in cuts due to state budget reductions.

"We're facing possible cuts from the state of $200,000 to the general fund, $300,000 in juvenile corrections and $500,000 in assigned council reimbursement," Elliott said.

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