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Budget trends continue for Sunnyside...Jail, police overtime still concerns

The song remains much the same for the city of Sunnyside's budget situation, according to a budget update recently released for the end of September.

Compared to figures from the end of August, the city's jail revenue shortfall remains a constant, as it is expected to reach upwards to $400,000, due primarily to a lack of federal prisoners compared to previous years.

While that status is relatively unchanged, the city's CFO/deputy city manager, Byron Olson, noted there also continues to be some positives in the city's budget.

He notes property tax revenues are on target for 2011. Thanks to high school construction, Olson says sales tax revenue in Sunnyside is actually on track to reach the target of $2.2 million.

The SHS project will continue into 2012, which means the city's sales tax figures should remain strong into next year, Olson says.

"It's a huge project for this city, any city," Olson says of construction at SHS. "The question is in 2013 can we find a way of replacing that sales tax revenue with other retail sales."

The city's water, sewer and ambulance utility funds are also doing fine, says Olson.

Sunnyside's stormwater revenues, according to figures as of the end of September, are higher than in 2010 - $146,700 compared to $98,500. Even so, the 2011 revenues are still behind budget, Olson says.

One ongoing budget issue the city continues to deal with, Olson notes, is police overtime expenditures that are expected to be around $400,000 this year.

That's despite the fact the city has hired on new officers both last year and this year. Olson says one reason for the overtime expenditures in 2011 is that four officers were on paid leave for four to eight weeks because of an officer-involved shooting earlier this year.

Still, he says the city should have seen overtime costs decrease as new police staff has been added. "It is a continuing downward trend, it's not self-correcting," Olson says of police overtime.

He noted a third-party review of the police department that started last month should help the city in addressing the overtime issue. Olson says the results of that study should be available by the end of this year.

The city's budget will be one of the topics covered during a workshop set for next Monday, Nov. 7, at 6:30 p.m. at the Law and Justice Center.

Olson said council wants to look at the budget because the ending balance in the general fund has been dropping.

As of the end of August, for example, the ending balance in the general fund was $730,462, compared to $465,049 at the end of September.

He says fluctuations are common with municipal governments because revenues are received in lump sums - not incrementally over 12 months. Olson notes that this month, for example, the city will receive a second installment of property tax revenues.

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