Budget hike of 9.5% proposed

"New staff, programs and equipment purchases could boost next year's city budget by $853,000.Proposals including an assistant police chief and three new public works crew members, new computers and other equipment are outlined in the mayor's draft budget proposal, now available at city hall.It's a budget that has an ambitious set of goals, said Mayor Dwight Sutton, saying he believes it balances work left unfinished this year and new demands of the public and city council.If approved, the programs would boost next year's operations spending to $14.13 million, up from $12.9 million in 2000. That figure represents new programs coupled with costs over which the city has little or no control - like inflation, and employee raises under the collective bargaining agreement - for a total increase in the operations budget of $1.23 million next year.Among the new proposals:Staff: Five new positions are proposed - two police officers, one an assistant chief and one for full-time traffic enforcement, and three in public works for road maintenance, immediate field response to calls from citizens, and facilities maintenance. Several other positions would be upgraded from part-time to full-time equivalent.Comprehensive planning: Studies or consultants are proposed for revisions to the comprehensive plan, Island Center zoning, the Wyckoff area plan and a proposed wildlife corridor. Human services and misc.: Also added are increased funding for the health and social services, derelict vessel disposal, and emergency communications planning.The budget is predicated on the courts finding Initiative 722 - which would immediately cost the city an estimated $4.5 million in lost and refunded tax money - unconstitutional. The city council last week unanimously approved a legal challenge.The budget document itself has been revamped this year, including a separate page explaining the rationale for each new item. The change was suggested by Administrator Lynn Nordby, Sutton said, to get away from line-item review.The city council recently approved a tax levy for next year that will come in at $1.61 per $1,000 assessed valuation, a 12 percent increase in tax revenue.The budget will be reviewed by the council's finance committee over the coming weeks. "

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