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11/7/2012 12:30:00 PM Email this articlePrint this article 
City staff looks for more revenue to balance budget
Kacie Thrift
Staff Writer

City council is in search of a way to raise revenue for the 2013 proposed budget to pay for the increase in public safety.

At the public hearing on Oct. 22, city staff and council members discussed the proposed budget and the unbalanced numbers for revenues and costs.

Cashmere Treasurer, Kay Jones, said the 2013 budget is mostly a carry over from last year in revenue and expenditures. There is a 3 percent wage increase for city employees in the budget proposal but the council hasn't approved it yet.

Jones said the budget would have shown a 10 percent increase in premiums for benefits but city staff saved money by changing the plans last year.

At the Oct. 8 meeting for the proposed budget Jones thought the cost for Rivercom would increase. She said after hearing back from Rivercom staff she was able to adjust the budget because even though the contract price is increasing the number of calls decreased. The actual amount in the Cashmere budget is decreasing $3,622.

The costs for law enforcement are increasing around $41,000. Regional jail fees are also increasing to $60,000. Overall Public safety contracts will be an increase of almost $100,000 to the city's budget.

City staff recommended a 4 percent increase in utility tax to cover the shortage due mainly to public safety. A 4 percent increase in water, wastewater and sanitation would generate approximately $120,000 for the General Government fund.

Currently there is an increase of around $3,000 to the budget from utility tax due to the water rates increasing 2.5 percent and the wastewater rates increasing 6 percent next year.

Animal control services will also have an increase of 8 percent in 2013.

On Nov. 1 city staff paid off two bonds and a loan for the new wastewater treatment facility. Jones said the other bond does not need to be paid off until after the construction is finished. Therefore, the new wastewater treatment facility is not in the proposed 2013 budget.

"For the rest of the time we save those payments because we don't have to start paying on the new bond until the construction is complete. That's $800,000 we save next year," Jones said.

At the Oct. 8 meeting Jones said the budget was over $80,000 shy of meeting the goal for revenue. After decreasing the equipment rental fees and fixing costs for a few other items in the budget, the budget is now $51,000 shy in meeting current year revenues with expenditures for the public works fund.

City staff recommended the council levy the 1 percent property tax increase and levy the three years back taxes. This would generate approximately $20,000 for the Public Works fund.

"Basically the budget has stayed the same from last year but the public safety has increased. Kay [Jones] and I are requesting a direction for what the council wants to do. We either need to attempt to trim things out a bit or have an increase in revenues. In order to move forward with it we need a consensus for what the council wants to see," said Cashmere Mayor Jeff Gomes.

Councilman Jim Fletcher said if the council members said to trim things down then the levels of service would have to decrease and he doesn't want to see city staff do that.

The consensus of the council was it is time to look at raising revenues to pay for the increases in public safety contracts.

"I think we have been fortunate as a community because we have been fiscally concerned. The reality of it is the community knows things are tough all over the place. It's probably time to raise revenues," said John Bryant, councilman.

Gomes said one positive thing about the budget is the revenue from sales tax is at an increase.

The Cashmere City Council is holding a public hearing on the preliminary 2013 budget including proposed expenditures, revenue sources, and a possible increase in property tax. The meeting is open to the public and will be on Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. at the Cashmere City Hall.

The final budget public hearing will be on Nov. 26 at 6 p.m. at Cashmere City Hall.

Kacie Thrift may be reached at 782-3781 or reporter@cashmerevalleyrecord.com.



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