County OKs levies; budget remains on table

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WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla County commissioners approved property tax levies Monday, but took no action on the 2013 budget.

Commissioners Greg Tompkins, Perry Dozier and Jim Johnson voted unanimously to have no increases in property tax levies for the county’s current expense, road and Mill Creek Flood Control District funds. They approved a 1 percent increase in the Emergency Medical Services levy.

A public hearing on the proposed tax levies drew no comments. Commissioners directed Connie Vinti, clerk of the board, to draw up resolutions on the tax levies for approval by the board.

Commissioners also continued their discussion, but took no action, on approval of the county’s 2013 budget. At the close of a public hearing on the budget, they agreed to end verbal comments, but will accept written comments until 5 p.m. on Friday.

According to county Auditor Karen Martin, despite the latest revisions the current expense budget, which pays for much of the county’s day-to-day operations, remains about $1.1 million out of balance.

The latest figures show requested expenditures of $15,239,612 and projected revenues of $14,129,662, Martin said. The latest projections for revenue show a drop of $245,362 from $14,375,024 this year.

Commissioners agreed that next year’s extremely tight budget will allow little leeway for changes. “We as a board will have to take a much harder look at budget amendments,” Dozier said in regards to any requests for increased spending.

In response to a question from the audience of what would happen if the budget is not balanced, Johnson and Tompkins said that, by law, that is not allowed. In the end, elected officials and department heads will be allocated what money is available and asked to deal with it as best they can.

“We are mandated to provide services and we’re mandated to balance the budget,” Tompkins said. In that situation, non-mandated services will be cut first and the major question becomes “what is county government really responsible for?”

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