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County dealing with jail shortfall in 2012

80 positions cut from jail payroll

YAKIMA - A third of the staff at Yakima County Jail will be let go this year to help meet a $6.7 million budget shortfall.

That's according to a 2012 preliminary budget presentation yesterday, Tuesday, to Yakima County commissioners.

Budget Director Craig Warner explained the shortfall exists because Seattle and other Western Washington cities earlier this year stopped sending prisoners to the county jail.

As a result, the county earlier this year began laying off jail employees.

By the end of 2011, Warner says the one-time total of 250 county jail workers will be reduced to 170 - a cutback of 80 positions.

The county's preliminary budget for 2012 totals $256 million, a 3 percent decrease from 2011.

Besides a decrease of about $7 million in the jail budget, the overall preliminary budget for 2012 also includes $8.5 million in decreases for capital expenditures compared to 2011.

The general fund budget, which covers the county's day-to-day operations, is pegged at $51.3 million according to 2012's preliminary budget. That total represents an increase of $244,754 over 2011's budget.

As for whether there will be layoffs in other departments, Warner said it's too soon to tell because elected department heads make that call.

Commissioners set budgets, he noted, but by law elected officials make the decision on how to live within those means - and whether or not that means having to lay off workers.

County Commissioner Rand Elliott emphasized that the preliminary budget for 2012 is just that - preliminary.

"It's not final and we invite comment," he said. "There's ample time."

Two hearings on the preliminary budget proposal will be held at the Yakima City Council Chambers, Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 10:30 a.m. and Thursday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m.

Commissioners will adopt a final budget during their regular meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 29, at 10 a.m.

Comments can also be made by calling 509-574-1500.

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