Commissioners take next step in Law & Justice budget - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Commissioners take next step in Law & Justice budget

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YAKIMA, Wash. -- Yakima County commissioners continue looking at ways to cut spending and save money for the county.

They met Monday at City Hall to go over the Law & Justice Panel Review Committee Report released last week.

Areas of concern have been a lower number of court cases versus a growing number of jury trials, and the added costs to taxpayers.

"The commissioners in the last year or two have become increasingly concerned about the amount of our budget that's going to the criminal justice system," commissioner Rand Elliott explained.

Elliott says the county spends around $30-million from the county's general funds, each year on law and justice.

"Although these departments work independent of each other that they do work for the greater good of the county and therefore, it's incumbent upon them to work in a collaborative spirit. In a more efficient means of using the resources that are made available to them throughout our budgeting process," commissioner Mike Leita explained.

Leita says around 86-percent of the county's budget is spent on the criminal justice system. He says they hope to be able to bring that number down to around 80-percent.

"We've got to be efficient and provide a better gang for the buck with the precious tax dollars that we have," commissioner Kevin Bouchey added.

The commissioners will meet with the six departments (courts, clerks office, assigned counsel, prosecutors, the Yakima Sheriff's Office and the Department of Corrections) for their feedback and input regarding the budget.

"We will take an opportunity to talk with each of the departments, candidly. Let them have their say in a quiet setting, then reconvene this larger Law and Justice Committee," commissioner Rand Elliott said.

Elliot says this planning process could take up to six months or longer.

The commissioners will meet again for another Study Session sometime next month.