City moves ahead in approving 2010 budget details

Published on Tue, Nov 24, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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As the city of Blaine moves closer to adopting its 2010 budget, Blaine City Council is struggling with details.

Property tax

Following much criticism from citizens who were upset over a proposed property tax increase, the council voted in their regular meeting Monday against a 1 percent hike that would have contributed approximately $9,200 to the city’s general fund and street improvement fund.

Sewer rate amendments

Rates for wastewater will jump by about 11.2 percent, an approximate $8 increase for homeowners. Public works director Steve Banham said the city’s sewer rates were scheduled to increase each year to help pay for the new water reclamation facility, Lighthouse Point, but a recent decision by the city to eliminate connection fees forced the city to increase those rates by about 2 percent.

Rates for low-income seniors and disabled residents will remain the same, he said.

The council also voted 5-0 to amend its sewer rates to allow condominium owners to access discounted rates for qualified seniors, handicapped and low-income individuals.

The proposal comes after a group of Blaine condominium owners, headed by Elle Tracy, demanded they be eligible for the same senior discounts afforded to other ratepayers.

Blaine city manager Gary Tomsic said because the utility bills are generally paid by a condominium owners association, it doesn’t allow the city to verify if those accounts are being used by senior and disabled persons. The amendment would change the language in the municipal code to allow condominium owners a way to pay their sewer rates through their individual electric accounts.

Arts funding

Former city councilmember Bruce Wolf said he was concerned about a reduction in funding for the Pacific Arts Association’s annual Jazz Festival from Blaine Tourism Advisory Commission.

“It isn’t the kind of thing you can just cut the budget on, the level of expertise that it takes requires a certain amount of money,” he said during a council meeting on November 9.

Wolf added that he and his wife, Sandy, have consistently donated $10,000 to $15,000 and raised about $30,000 each year from the private sector, translating to about $2 for every dollar contributed by BTAC.“I can tell you that nowhere in the BTAC funding does any organization have that kind of result on the dollar," he said. "That's the commitment of this community to this jazz festival.”

The council is scheduled to approve the final budget December 12.