Pacific Ave jail

FILE — The jail on Pacific Avenue in Yakima, which the county is converting to a community care campus for the homeless.

Yakima County’s operating budget is headed in a positive direction if a projected rise in sales and property tax revenues is accurate.

“The overall budget outlook is good, but we are cautiously optimistic the revenue will stay strong for 2022,” county Finance Director Craig Warner said.

Yakima County commissioners approved a 2022 proposed operating budget Tuesday that includes revenue growth and less reliance on a road levy shift that for years has helped the general fund.

The county will also retire its single largest debt by the end of 2022 — the construction cost of the Pacific Avenue jail.

The overall proposed budget is more than $312 million with a $70.8 million general fund. The general fund pays for law and justice services such as courts, prosecutors, public defenders, the sheriff’s office and other services.

The county projects a 10% increase in retail sales tax revenue, which equates to about an additional $1.6 million. Warner said federal stimulus money related to federal COVID-19 pandemic relief measures could be a factor in the boosted sales figures. The county saw a similar uptick in retail tax revenue in the previous budget cycle.

“We are seeing good growth in retail sales, with online sales being a driving factor,” Warner said. “We are concerned that the one-time federal funds could be causing the growth bubble we are seeing today, but online sales could keep the numbers higher as people change the way they purchase going forward.”

Property tax revenue is expected to bring an additional $860,000 to the county next year. Although revenue from sales and property taxes are up, the general fund will rely on about $1.3 million in reserves to make it through 2022.

Additional financial relief is on the way. By the end of 2022, the county will satisfy the construction debt on the jail on Pacific Avenue in Yakima, eliminating an annual payment of about $2 million.

The 288-bed jail was built in 2006 solely to house inmates from other communities under contracts that were meant to generate revenue. The plan never fully materialized and the county was left with a $25 million construction debt.

Reliance on a road levy to help the general fund will also drop to $1.7 million, a nearly 70% decrease. The levy shift began in the wake of the Great Recession, when the county lost several contracts worth millions of dollars to house inmates from other communities.

A 10 a.m. budget meeting has been set for Dec. 6 with another one at 7 p.m. on Dec. 7.

The final budget is expected to be adopted at 10 a.m. Dec. 14.

Budget meetings will be held in room B33 of the Yakima County Courthouse at 128 N. Second St., Yakima.

Zoom links will be posted on the commissioners’ website.

Reach Phil Ferolito at or on Twitter: @philipferolito

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