LionsPoolFile

Meagan Welton water walks with friend Marie Sweeney at the Lions Pool in Yakima, Wash., Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018. (SHAWN GUST/Yakima Herald-Republic)

The Yakima City Council tentatively approved reducing expenses in the city’s preliminary 2019 budget by about $1 million Tuesday.

That could include the closing of Lions Pool.

“We’re not even cutting to the bone now. We’re cutting to the bone marrow,” Assistant City Manager Ana Cortez said during a council study session on the budget.

Cortez presented the council with several options to address gaps between expenses and revenue.

Next year’s general fund is estimated at about $64 million, which pays for operating costs such as city services and wages. The fund is one part of the city’s overall budget, which is about $250 million.

While city officials anticipate lower expenses, the city’s revenue is also expected to decrease, leaving a gap of nearly $800,000. Council members will discuss the revenue picture at a study session on Thursday.

In addition, the city needs to add to the general reserve fund, which is designated for unplanned expenses, much like a personal savings account. According to city policy, the fund should include about two months’ worth of operating expenses or 16.7 percent of the city’s general budget.

Following that policy, the city would need to have about $10.6 million in the reserve fund. Right now, it’s projected the reserves will be about $7.5 million.

To address the gaps, Cortez presented council members with possible spending cuts of about $1.3 million.

Proposed cuts include city-funded celebrations such as Battle of the Bands, the Fourth of July and Cinco de Mayo, which would result in about $45,000 in savings. The council tentatively approved those changes Tuesday.

Reducing the general fund training and travel budget by 40 percent was another option tentatively approved by the council. Members suggested that department heads use the remaining 60 percent only for mandatory or essential training and travel.

The Yakima Fire Department proposed a reduction in funding for its reserve program. Added to the decreased travel and training costs, that would save about $255,000.

The council tentatively approved cuts to seven vacant city positions paid for by the general fund. Members proposed using some of that money for new positions.

Council members also looked at consolidating public information positions for the police and fire departments into one bilingual community relations position, which would handle duties for both agencies.

Added together, those tentative position changes could reduce the city’s expenses by about $664,000.

Another option the council discussed was the closure of Lions Pool, 509 W. Pine St., which would save $300,000.

The council agreed to consider transferring operation of the pool to the Yakima School District. Council members postponed a decision on the pool until they could speak with district officials.

The study session was the first of four scheduled over the next two weeks. They’re open to the public.

Following the study sessions, the council will hold three public hearings in November and December to discuss the preliminary budget, with one focused solely on a property tax for collection next year. It is anticipated that the council will adopt the budget Dec. 11.