Citydepartments trim budgets for 2008

Published on Thu, Nov 29, 2007 by TaraNelson

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City departments trim budgets for 2008

By Tara Nelson

City departments have been asked to trim their budgets this year while still maintaining current staff levels, according to the city’s 2008 budget estimated at $5.2 million.

During a regular meeting of the Blaine City Council Monday, finance director Meredith Riley announced that the general fund expenditures for the 2008 budget will be reduced by $147,000 despite increases in revenues from sales tax and other taxes.

“The revenues aren’t keeping up with the expenditures in general,” she said. “We just weren’t bringing forward sufficient money.”

And while a recent change in state law would have allowed the city to increase the amount of revenue from property taxes, they have heeded a request from Governor Christine Gregoire to keep the former cap at 1 percent.

“The budget we are proposing is dependent on that 1 percent increase in revenue from property taxes but we have gone ahead and complied with the governor’s wishes and not gone beyond that,” said Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic.

Earlier this month, the state Supreme court overturned I-747, the voter-approved measure that capped property tax increases at one percent, claiming the text of the initiative misled voters on the substantive impact the law would have.

As a result, taxing districts now have the ability to increase property tax levies by up to 6 percent a year, as the previous law allowed.

Gregoire had urged local and state taxing districts earlier this month to not increase property tax levies more than 1 percent for their upcoming budgets as a result of the court’s decision. In addition, she said she will ask the legislature to reinstate a property tax cap in an emergency work session

Blaine finance director Meredith Riley said although a larger increase in the property tax levy would be beneficial to the city’s general reserve fund, she did not increase the city’s portion of tax revenue in consideration of the burden it would place on citizens but also because the ruling could be overturned.

“It certainly reduces the amount of revenue we can bring in,” she said. “But the state legislature is reviewing the 1 percent and they may put it into law.”

The winners
The budget also includes funding for one new police car, one refurbished police car and one new motorcycle; salary and benefit increases in compliance with union contracts; four police vehicle laptop computers; monthly rent for the new planning department office at 311 H Street, and continued funding for fire marshal services, which citizens voted for.

Blaine police chief Mike Haslip added that the department is currently funding the training of two new officers who may join the department in the next two years.

The losers
The cutbacks have been broad and include travel and training for staff, as well as reductions in contracted professional services and supply budgets for all of the city’s departments in order to maintain the current level of staff. “We were trying to keep the staff level for needed services above all else,” she said.

The only exception was the police department, which will not fill a full-time position in 2008 after one officer retired.

His position will, however, be filled with a public safety community service officer, the funding for which had already been earmarked in 2007.

Riley added that the estimated ending balance for 2007 will be unusually low and, if overestimated, could cut into next year’s balance. That balance is estimated at approximately $632,000.

“If my forecast for 2007 is incorrect then there is no way we will be able to get through the 2008 budget,” she said.

The council scheduled a second meeting to review the 2008 budget during their next regular meeting at 7 p.m., December 10 at city hall. For more information, call 332-8311.