Bainbridge City Council passes last remaining ordinances in 2011 budget

The Bainbridge City Council has approved the last of the ordinances related to the 2011 budget, several of which will have a direct impact on the pocketbooks of community members.

The 2011 budget was approved Nov. 17 after weeks of workshops and difficult decisions. The ordinances approved at Wednesday’s meeting marked the approval of some of the last ordinances made during budget discussions. The budget is not a static document, and it can be changed at any time the council sees fit.

Despite widespread public disapproval, the council passed ordinance No. 2010-44 relating to penalties for parking violations. The ordinance doubles the fee for a parking fine to $50 and creates a late payment (after 30 days) of $25 for anyone who exceeds the two-hour parking limit in the downtown corridor.

Interim City Manager Brenda Bauer said city administration plans to address the possibility of increasing the time limits, possibly to a three-hour maximum, to allow people enough time to get their business done while still discouraging those who abuse spaces using them as ferry parking.

Councilors Barry Peters and Hilary Franz said they want to find a way to increase the time limit so shoppers with a legitimate reason to be downtown have enough time and don’t get slapped with a hefty fine, and the impact is lessened for the downtown business community.

Council already approved the addition of another parking enforcement officer, which will designate two full-time officers to monitor parking downtown.

Debbi Lester argued that the fine was too extreme.

The parking penalty hasn’t been amended since 2003 and Bauer said many cities have similar fines of $35 to $50 for parking violations.

The motion passed 3-1 with Lester voting no. Kirsten Hytopoulos, Kim Brackett and Bill Knobloch had excused absences for the meeting.

• The council unanimously approved an ordinance to lower the city’s storm and surface water utility fee. Council passed a motion on Nov. 2, asking city administration to bring a proposal to lower the rate given the reduced capital projects planned for 2011.

The monthly service fee for each single-family and duplex residential dwelling for all of 2011 will be $12.23, down from $13.21. Bauer said she tried to keep the rate level over the next two years.

• The council unanimously passed ordinance No. 2010-43, which makes the affordable housing fund become a sub-fund of the general fund rather than a distinct fund.

The affordable housing fund supports the development and preservation of affordable housing in the community. Previously it was separated from the general fund for accounting purposes.

The council determined through budget discussions that a sub-fund would boost the general fund balance and paint a better financial picture for the city.

Bauer said the move is strictly for housekeeping purposes. She said none of the funds left in the account are donated funds, leaving only the tax-supported monies. Regardless, she said, the function and intent of the affordable housing monies will not change.

Still, the move made many in the community, including several councilors uncomfortable, who wanted reassurance the money would not be used for general fund purposes.

“It sounds benign, but it makes me nervous and the community needs reassurance on this issue,” said Housing Resources Board Executive Director Ken Balizer at a Nov. 3 council meeting. “It makes one think there is a lack of commitment for maintaining resources for affordable housing.”

• The business and occupation tax, ordinance No. 2010-46, also passed unanimously. The city is authorized to collect a 0.2 percent tax on the gross income of persons doing business within the city over a certain threshold. At an Oct. 19 meeting, the council passed a motion to lower that threshold for 2011 and beyond.

For 2011, anyone with gross total income equal of more than $200,000 will be charged the 0.2 percent tax on the amount that exceeds $200,000. The previous threshold was $250,000. For 2012 and beyond, anyone with gross income exceeding $150,000 will be charged the tax on monies exceeding $150,000.

• Ordinance No. 2010-45 related to the commercial parking tax, which authorizes the city to collect a tax on the gross proceeds of persons who operate commercial parking lots was also passed.

The tax has been in place since 1992, but it had a clause stating the city would charge 30 percent “less a discount determine by City Council.” The ordinance deletes the discount.

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