Benton County Sheriff to suffer brunt of budget cuts

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldNovember 28, 2012 

Benton County officials have whittled the projected $2.7 million shortfall in the 2013-14 budget to about $76,000 -- an amount that can be covered by reserves if needed.

The savings plan includes more than $1.2 million in cuts to the biggest county department -- the sheriff's office.

No layoffs in that department are planned, although about a dozen staff positions in the jail would be eliminated through attrition.

Sheriff Steve Keane said his department, which has more than 200 employees total, will be able to maintain current service levels.

"But any future cuts would for sure cause tough decisions to be made about services we provide," he said Tuesday afternoon.

Earlier in the day, county Administrator David Sparks presented the budget figures to county commissioners, who reviewed the numbers but didn't take any final action.

If they're finalized, the sheriff's office would take the biggest financial hit, but several other county departments -- from planning to facilities -- also would tighten their belts.

"All the departments looked at their budgets and said, 'What can I cut?' " said Keith Mercer, the county's finance manager.

He said the county should be able to maintain service levels across the board. No layoffs are factored into the budget.

The total proposed operating budget for the 2013-14 biennium is around $113 million.

Commissioners are scheduled to consider adopting a two-year spending plan in mid-December, following a public hearing.

Also Tuesday:

w Commissioners set the estimated property tax levy for 2013 at $19.57 million. That's a 2.15 percent increase from the current expense levy base for this year.

The levy rate is estimated to be about the same as this year's $1.27 per $1,000 of assessed property value.

Commissioners set the estimated county road levy for 2013 at $5.8 million.

w Commissioners appointed five people to the new Fairgrounds Improvement Board. They are: Dan McDaniel, Mike Holstein and Jan Wiggins of Kennewick, Jeff Van Meighem of Richland and Amanda Mathieson of Benton City.

County officials in October interviewed nine applicants for the citizen-based board, which will guide future improvements at the fairgrounds.

The five members will serve two-year terms. Their first meet is set for mid-January.

Tri-City Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service