City budget nearly back on track

Sunnyside Finance Subcommittee member Jason Raines looks over general fund figures presented at last night’s meeting.

Photo by Jennie McGhan
Sunnyside Finance Subcommittee member Jason Raines looks over general fund figures presented at last night’s meeting.


In yesterday’s (Tuesday) coverage of the Sunnyside Finance subcommittee meeting the $460,000 was the amount paid to the state of Washington for court fines collected by the city, not IRS fines and penalties.

Finance Director David Layden at last night’s finance subcommittee meeting discussed with subcommittee meetings the 2013 budget report from Sept. 30.

The report, generated three-fourths of the way through the budgeted year, shows revenues are at just more than 78 percent of what was projected for the general fund.

Expenses are at nearly 82 percent of what was projected for 2013, but Layden said paying the IRS fines and penalties to the tune of $460,000 contributed to overspending the projected budget.

The city also made a third payment for a water and sewer bond. That payment was for 2012, which subcommittee member Jason Raines noted would have been recorded to the 2012 budget had the city been on an accrual-based financial system.

Layden said the city will this month receive property taxes recently collected. “That will help bring revenues closer to what was in the budget,” he said.

What he is concerned about is the revenues for the water and sewer fund. Layden said, “Revenues aren’t as healthy as projected.”

Attempting to explain why the revenues are lower than anticipated, he said residents may not have watered their yards as often during the warm weather months.

“A rate adjustment may be needed,” Layden told the subcommittee.

Raines noted a water rate study was contracted by the city, but results of that study have not been received. He said, “I am curious if some users are subsidized and believe users should be assessed at the cost of providing the product…are we billing them at a rate that makes sense?”

Layden also noted the 2013 budget for executive salaries has climbed to nearly 186 percent of what the costs were expected to be. He said that is because the city had expenses associated with former city managers and the new city manager’s salary to account for.

Expenses for the police department were, as of Sept. 30, just below projections for the year at nearly 72 percent. Layden said there wasn’t a police chief salary and the crime analyst position was vacant for a short period of time.

“Even with all the overtime everyone has been worried about this is good news,” said subcommittee member Dean Broersma.

Layden said he added a little extra to the proposed 2014 budget for police overtime.

“At the end of the year, the city should be within range of its budget,” he said, noting he has built into the 2014 preliminary budget conservative figures to prevent over-projections. He said he also would like the city to build a reserve general fund balance of approximately $4 million.

‑ Jennie McGhan can be contacted at 509-837-4500, or email


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4everoceans 4 years, 6 months ago

It appears as though Sunnyside may finally have a Finance Director that knows what he is doing, which hasn't been the case since Councilman Vlieger made sure Bud Schatz left the City.

As stated above, the PD expenses are at 72% about right for 3/4 of the year but that figure is without a Chief of Police salary and with several months without a crime analyst salary. If you factor in those two salaries, I'm guessing that the numbers through Sept (3/4 of 2013 budget year) would be way past 75% or 3/4 of the year's budget. Trying to smooth over the excessive overtime costs by pointing to the under 75% number through Sept is a nice try to get us to not notice the overtime--BUT we notice.

The Finance Officer wants to reach a $4M reserve in the General Fund, good luck with that!!! When Vlieger came on council there was a $1+M in reserves and what did he do SPEND, SPEND till it was all but gone. Now he is bragging about a mere $300,000 in the General Fund, and that is thanks to an accounting error that showed the General Fund nearly broke a couple of months ago. The Finance Officer has his job cut out for him if Vlieger remains on council.


ssoverlord 4 years, 6 months ago

4everoceans, while I agree with what you said, please revise your figures in that the City had $3.7 million in reserves and contingency when Vlieger and Farmer were elected in 2009! They burned through that pot of money like a crack addict who found a $5 bill on the street. They regularly brought items to the council to fund while ignoring the warnings of the City Manager and Finance Director that this was one time money and should not be spent on recurring expenses, and then had the nerve to call out and blame staff when it was gone.


4everoceans 4 years, 6 months ago

ssoverlord, thanks for correcting me.


sunnysidefav 4 years, 6 months ago

Mr ssoverlord, I very seldom read the online blogs and when I have I have noticed that you have an intense dislike for Vlieger, Rains, Farmer and Hicks. I also note that you don't agree with them often. Let me bring to your attention a few things that I feel you overlooked. If I missed any of them in your blogs I am sorry.

Lets Start with one of your big concerns the PD. I will give you the fact that they were not as careful as they should of been with our money and wasted alot. But lets look at what happened during that time. The previous City Manager Swensen, the Finance Director and the Council could not read a financial report. (Vlieger,Rains,Farmer,Hicks were not on that council) They thought the City was going to come up a million dollars short and they laid of cops, closed the Community Center and shut down the Parks and Rec department only to find out their mistake later. None of those positions were refilled, the Community Center was not reopened and fell into disrepair and the Parks and Rec department was not reinstated.

The Police Department had to rely on over time to meet safe staffing. We also had a cop shooting downtown and that took several officers off duty for several weeks until the investigation cleared them. You also failed to mention how much of that overtime money was reimbursed to the City.

Lets talk about the $700,000 in outside attorney fees that Interim City Manager Jim Bridges and City Manager Mark Gervasi blew thru and spent in less than 2 years while Grandview spent $90,000 with the same firm.

Lets talk about the $50,000 in illegal pay raises that Interim City Manager Jim Bridges gave with out Council knowledge or approval which was required by law. This is $50,000 per year going forward.

I have run out of my allotted space and will continue with a new blog if permitted.


sunnysidefav 4 years, 6 months ago

Mr ssoverlord continued. Lets talk about the $70,000 in fines and penalties that we were assessed for not filing and paying the IRS on time. Thank goodness it only cost the City $60,000 to pay a accounting firm to get the $70.000 abated. Guess what it has happened again. I do not know how much it will cost the City this time but I think it will be substantial.

Lets talk about the Helle report. After several Employees filed a Hostile Work Environment complaint our insurance carrier investigated it and found it to have merit. So what did the City do. They paid $9500 to have another report done called the "Helle" report. It was never published because it was critical of the Interim City manager, some high level City Officers and some Council members. Why was that?

How about the 1st Street reconstruction project. The City paid out over $100,000 to have work redone that was not done right. Our inspectors did not catch the problem till it was to late. What was staffs answer? Its alright because the project came in under bid so it wasn't really money out of our pocket.

How many times did our Public Works Director Jim Bridges use his engineering stamp on our projects instead of sending them out for some one else to charge check and charge us?

How about the $50,000 (city share) we paid out because of our Public Works Directors actions towards a female subordinate.

How about the street sweeper that our Public Works Director ordered for the City that would not clean the streets because of the design.

Mr ssoverlord many of these things were discovered and brought forth by these 4 council members. Some of these items were being hid from council knowledge. They were doing there job! You may not like it or agree with it but they saved the City hundreds of thousands
of dollars on just what I have mentioned.

I am sure being a Councilman is not easy. They have to make decisions on what staff provides them and what the public wants. Lots of time the information given to them is not entirely accurate.

If the Council had continued to under fund and ignore the Police Department needs how many drive by's, how many people would have been shot and how many people would not feel safe in there own homes would we have today?

My dad always told me you either have to put up or shut up. In two years we will be electing three council members to serve us. These are open seats and anyone who lives in the city can run. Mr ssoverlord since you seem to know it all and have all of the answers it is time for you to put up or shut up!

So Mr ssoverlord if you wish to contest any of my claims knock your self out. These claims are all public record. I know I can make another list just like the one I just wrote and continue on with other examples. Get over it and lets all move on.


kimstandlee 4 years, 6 months ago

Oh Sunnysidefav, you drank the kool-aid or you are Don Vlieger. Same story. The half truths and out right untruths in you comments lead me believe you are one in the same. Instead of implementing policy, the City was drug through 4 years of turmoil and bullying. Borrowing words from another source; "The past four years were painful. Vlieger wanted to debate everything, accomplished very little and in the end blamed everyone,”. The only thing he accomplished was nearly bankrupting the city and trying to destroy a lot of good peoples lives. Now, it's over, the citizens have spoken, the bully exposed. Ding Dong!


sunnysidefav 4 years, 6 months ago

Sorry kimstandlee I did not drink the Kool-Aid and my name is not Don. You must believe that everything written or spoken just has to be the truth. What do you believe in my statement is half true? I as a resident of Sunnyside am glad that every issue is debated by Council. It never hurts to get another prospective or idea on anything. When that doesn't we run into trouble. Are you Blond?


ssoverlord 4 years, 6 months ago

Sunnysidefav, so even after all of stuff that you mentioned the city still had $3.7M in the bank. But you somehow think that justified your buddies (family members??) to spend every dime of it? I'm having a hard time following the logic of your argument.

As I stated a while ago in a different post Vlieger's only hope was low information voters, as in people who would believe everything he spews. You proved my point.


sunnysidefav 4 years, 6 months ago

Ssoverlord, I cannot find where the City had 3.7M in 2010 or any year after that. Financial reports were not given often by Mr Olson (the Finance Director hired by Mr Bridges) and were never very accurate as the data was never updated properly. I would appreciate telling me where I can find in the City's (year ending or beginning balance) that the 3.7M was there. It was gone clear back before the 2010 budget and Vlieger, Farmer and Rains were not there then. If you remember Mr Swenson and his Council had to make major cuts to the PD and Parks and Rec Departments because they did not have the 3.7M to draw from. So please show me where I can find that. Maybe we can just blame that on George Bush also. I proved my point that people like you ssoverlord, do not know what they are talking about. Place the blame where it belongs.


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