"$12.88 million city budget inspires nod, yawns"

"The end, which for the record came at 11:10 p.m. PST on Dec. 22, was startling and abrupt.Not the end of the world – apparently, that comes next week – but rather the adoption of the 2000 city budget at Wednesday’s council meeting.After an hour or so of generally bland discussion, a haggard council unanimously OK’d a $12.88 million operations budget for the coming year, concluding a marathon month of meetings and wholesale number-crunching.“Hm!” exclaimed Mayor Dwight Sutton, visibly surprised at the brevity of the proceedings. “Okay!”A round of applause followed, and the council retired to an unrelated executive session, having approved a budget that shows about 6 percent growth from 1999.Operating expenditures, the general barometer of city spending, are projected at $12.88 million for 2000, up from $12.14 million this year. Capital expenditures and debt service for roads, utilities and other projects are projected at another $10.3 million, down significantly from this year thanks to the completion of the new city hall.In the end, council members axed most of the new positions proposed in the preliminary budget. Most of the finer details and disagreements had been hammered out in committee, including a special 11th-hour session by the council’s finance committee Tuesday.Wednesday’s meeting only dragged past the 11 o’clock hour because of a lengthy slate of other agenda items, and a cake-and-handshake ceremony marking the final meeting of council members Andy Maron and Shelly Halligan. The pair, hailed for their service in brief speeches by the mayor and other council members, are stepping down after nine and four years in office, respectively.“We worked hard to make the compromises we could,” said Halligan, a finance committee member, “and people were more willing to make compromises this year.“I think it was so acrimonious last year, people tried to find a way to make it less so.”What’s in: Responding to two years of complaints from island citizens, the council approved a new position that will combine code enforcement and building inspection. The mayor and planning department had proposed one position for each, backed by Councilman Jim Llewellyn, a contractor by trade, as “sorely needed.” But no consensus could be reached, and a bid by Llewellyn to restore the second position Wednesday failed.The council also approved the hiring of one new commissioned police officer, half of whose salary will be funded through a federal grant over the next three years. Bainbridge Police Chief Bill Cooper had requested two new officers.The council doubled a line-item for drainage planning, to $710,000 for next year, citing the need for stormwater management in Fort Ward and numerous other areas. A new drainage planning engineer also was added.In the planning department, one associate planner position was upped from part- to full-time, and a 0.6 FTE permit technician was added.Funding for island human services agencies was set at $210,000 for next year, after the annual ritual of extensive lobbying by those groups.What’s out:Proposals that went by the wayside included city tax support for Kitsap Transit, to help that agency maintain off-peak bus service imperiled by I-695 funding cuts. The subsidy was estimated at more than $400,000 per year, and was punted to the council’s operations committee for further study in the coming year.Three proposed public works positions, two for utility work and one a mechanic, were nixed. A proposal for a new housing planner, to facilitate affordable projects now in the works, was jettisoned in favor of contracting out for that work.A new part-time parking enforcement officer was dropped, but may be contracted out rather than creating a new city position.As anticlimactic as it was, the meeting did revive a schism that has developed as to just how the council should be considering the budget.The document has traditionally been presented in line-item form, showing every single fund and transfer payment. That allows the council to pore over every detail of city spending, but it’s a level of scrutiny that some don’t welcome.Wednesday, Councilman Merrill Robison lambasted the group for “jumping in line by line, when we don’t understand the levels of service, and don’t understand the programs.“I’m sick and tired of playing manager,” Robison said. “We’re policy makers.”City Administrator Lynn Nordby has suggested a new, more generalized manner of budget presentation and discussion. In that scenario, the council would look at total spending by departments, with proposed new expenditures tied to specific policy goals."

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