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Despite city manager’s warning, Yakima budget cuts coming primarily from personnel

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(The Center Square) – The Yakima City Council has more tough decisions to make during their next regular business meeting. The city, like many others in the region, is facing financial challenges moving towards the 2024 budgeting process.

After a short adjournment for an executive session, the City Council reconvened a study session this week to hear budget cuts from three more departments.

The council has asked department heads to come to them with proposals for 10% budget cuts across the board.

Earlier this year it was the police department, as previously reported by The Center Square.

This week, the three departments presenting were human resources, legal, and the department tasked with implementing the outcome of this process, finance.

“I’m not going to throw in the slide about the city manager not endorsing salary [reductions], because I feel like you’ve seen that plenty of times already,” said Director of Human Resources Connie Mendoza to start off the conversation.

She was referring to the fact that City Manager Bob Harrison “does not support reducing salaries or mandating furloughs,” a powerpoint slide that appeared in the other two departments slide decks.

Unfortunately many departments didn’t have the option.

The Human Resources solution to their 10% cut was simple compared to other departments. The proposal was to eliminate an open position that had been budgeted for but not filled.

Allowing a senior HR assistant role to go unfilled would amount to a savings of $123,718, or 10.15% of HR’s $1,218,599 budget.

Next up was finance, with Director Jennifer Ferrer-Santa Ines presenting.

“Essentially what’s happening is that our existing revenues are not keeping pace with our expenditures, and so moving forward there will need to be continued discussions with diversifying our revenues,” said Ferrer-Santa Ines.

Financial Services Manager Kimberly Dominé, said the department is already “running lean” and was only able to come up with $177,073 in cuts, or roughly 8.5% of their $2,092,309 budget.

This came in the form of $158,176 in salary reductions, and $18,896 in operating expense reductions.

Purchasing, also included in finance, again made their reduction through salary cuts by eliminating a half-time employee position totaling $33,394, or roughly 6.7% of their $500,802 budget.

Last up was legal, where the $1,863,611 budget is over 90% comprised of employee salaries.

To accomplish their cuts, they relied entirely on reducing positions.

They cut the budget for a Senior Assistant City Attorney Position as well as a Rule 9 Summer Intern Position, both of which were already budgeted but vacant.

This resulted in $190,169 in savings, or roughly 10.2% of their 2024 budget.

Ultimately, the warning from Finance Director Ferrer-Santa Ines may prove dire for not only the 2024 budget, but for years to come.

“I do want to add that budget reductions, such as the ones that you have heard, and the ones that you will continue to hear, are temporary fixes to our budget constraints,” said Ferrer-Santa Ines. “Something more sustainable to address our long term needs, both for operations and deferred capital needs that the city has.”

The City Council’s next business budget is scheduled for Aug 3.

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