News

Capital projects raise city’s proposed budget

by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

In a time when most government budgets are facing major cuts, the City of Sequim is considering a 2012 budget worth $20.6 million. That’s about $2 million more than 2011’s budget of $18.6 million, but looks are deceiving as some of the increase comes from plans long in the pipeline, while others will be drawn from funds that had been set aside for specific projects, including the new city hall property purchase.

 

City Manager Steve Burkett said the budget is status quo in terms of the economy.

 

“What’s going in the world economy and U.S. economy suggests we’re not going to be recovering soon,” he said.

 

“We’re going to be dealing with the same issues. Our revenue is increasing slightly and we have pressures for expenditure increases. We’re going to figure out some way of reducing expenditure increases.”

 

Anticipated 2012 revenues are $318,500 more than 2011 revenues but expenses are projected to increase  by $440,000.

 

The city’s projected revenues are approximately $8.3 million including an $18,000 increase in sales tax over staff’s budgeted estimate, and $29,000 from increased utility taxes.

 

Expenditures are expected to total approximately $8.4 million, with the biggest increase a $369,000 bounce for salaries and benefits for police.

 

All non-uniformed employees voted not to take a pay increase whereas police sergeants contractually receive a 3 percent salary increase and officers a 2 percent increase.

 

The city’s overall costs went up 14.8 percent for Public Employees’ Retirement System contributions, while Labor and Industries costs rose 17 percent and health insurance 11 percent.

 

Possible utilities increase    

Sewer and water rate payers could be unhappy with the budget.

 

Burkett said he’s proposed a 2-percent increase for both rates because costs aren’t being met.

 

“Our approach is to increase a little bit each year rather than a bigger one later,” he said.

 

The sewer increase could be a $1.05 to $1.22 increase per month for single-family residences depending on usage and about 53 cents per month for water users.

 

Burkett said the city needs assistance to pay for the expansion of the water reclamation plant and maintaining the new Albert Haller Playfields.

 

A low-income discount policy will continue for qualifying customers. Last year, 24 accounts received discounts.

 

Burkett did not call for increasing the property tax levy by 1 percent, which would have brought in approximately $13,000. This saves homeowners about $2.

Balanced budget

This year’s proposed city budget is balanced, but Burkett said they need to dip into reserves for one-time expenses totaling $130,000.

 

The funding will pay to train a replacement for the city’s retiring mechanic   and to cover the fringe benefits and replacements for two police officers deployed to Afghanistan.

 

Karen Goschen, administrative services director, said a number of capital projects are one reason for an

increase in the budget. Capital projects total about $5.3 million.

 

Staff suggested transferring monies, such as $1,250,000 for purchasing the city hall property. She said the city also is applying for more than $500,000 in grants for various projects.

 

Two positions are expected to be cut, including a temporary legal analyst and a crime prevention officer/public information officer. Other positions are proposed to become full-time, including the the communications and marketing director.

 

More information will be released on the budget process in the coming weeks.

 


Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

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