Walla Walla County’s two largest cities have approved their new budgets at recent city council meetings.
Among the highlights of the new budgets are police body cameras in Walla Walla, and renovations to the wastewater treatment plant and Lions Park in College Place.
The Walla Walla City Council approved its budget at the Wednesday, Dec. 7, council meeting.
Walla Walla uses a biennial budget that it develops, holds hearings on and passes every even year. The newly passed budget will be in effect Jan. 1, 2023, until Dec. 31, 2024.
The budget forecasts revenues to the city’s general fund of $44.5 million in 2023 and $43.1 million in 2024. This difference is, in part, because the city is expecting more money from intergovernmental revenue in 2023 than 2024, according to the budget document. Spending from the general fund is projected at about $44.4 million in 2023 and 43.1 million in 2024.
In a letter announcing the budget, City Manager Elizabeth Chamberlin — who at the time was the deputy city manager but was later promoted the same night — said no new general fund programs are on the budget, and no new staff positions are included unless there is new revenue to support them.
For example, “A civil engineering position is included in the 2023-2024 budget because it will generate revenue based on project assignments,” she wrote.
The first draft of the budget led to some discussion when body cameras for the city’s police officers were not included. This decision was reversed at a Nov. 14 study session.
Because the budget already was balanced, adding body cameras required moving money around.
“We considered what we could present to the finance committee in order to keep a balanced budget but also add a body camera program,” Chamberlain said at the study session. “This was not an easy issue to figure out … But also, I know this was a program (the) council was supportive of including in the budget.”
Much of the funding for the cameras will initially come from unused staffing money budgeted for unfilled positions in 2022.
The College Place City Council passed its 2023 annual budget at its Tuesday, Dec. 13, meeting.
The budget will see the city spending $62.7 million against a revenue of about $61.66 million. This means the city’s total fund will drop from about $18.5 million to about $17.45 million.
Some of the city’s increased spending is connected to the American Rescue Plan Act funds received from the federal government, Mayor Norma Hernández wrote in a letter announcing the budget.
Two of the largest expenditures — renovations to Lions Park and federally required renovation of the wastewater treatment plant — are both partly grant funded, according to Hernández’s letter.
Also included in the new budget is increased pay for city employees and four new city jobs.
The new jobs for 2023 are an additional police officer, a facilities maintenance employee, a stormwater maintenance employee and a mental health co-responder.
Firefighters, who are entering the third year of a three-year contract, are receiving a 4% raise, along with non-union city staff.
Police officers, who are entering the first year of a new contract that was approved in the same meeting as the budget, will see a 5% raise.
The new agreement with the police union was approved as part of the consent agenda and was not discussed at the meeting.
According to documents, the three-year deal comes with 5% raises for officers in 2023 and 2024 and a 4% raise in 2025. The new contract also allows officers to use earned vacation time after six months on the job, instead of waiting a year as they did under the old contract.
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