News

City looks at ‘conservative’ budget for ‘02

Anticipating approval of state Initiative 747, which would limit the increase in property tax collections to 1 percent annually, the city administration is proposing a “pretty conservative” budget for 2002.

“We obviously have our own political beliefs, and we think (I-747) would be a disaster in the long run,” said city Administrator Lynn Nordby, who co-authored the budget with Mayor Dwight Sutton and Finance Director Ralph Eells. “(But) this year, we can make it.”

The draft budget, unveiled Monday, projects city operating costs of $16.31 million for 2002, up from a projected $14.86 million this year.

Total expenditures are expected to be $25.82 million, including capital projects and debt service, down from $26.13 million in 2001.

No new initiatives or programs are proposed, and only two new staff positions.

Some capital projects will probably be pushed back to future years, Nordby said, reflecting belt-tightening and a better appraisal of current staffing.

“We have been pretty optimistic about what we can accomplish,” Nordby said. “Experience is showing that we can only do so much.”

Revenues

Already approved by the city council, next year’s city property tax rate will be $1.60 per $1,000 assessed valuation, a drop from $1.71 in 2001.

But the decrease will be offset by rising property valuations, so actual dollars collected will increase by 1 percent to $4.9 million.

By comparison, the city property tax collection was hiked by more than 25 percent in 2000, and by more than 10 percent in 2001, as the administration and city council tried to offset losses in state shared revenue caused by I-695.

Property taxes collected by the city account for about 10 percent of the local property tax burden.

With the softening economy, city sales tax revenues in 2002 are expected to decline by 10 percent. No changes in local utility taxes are expected.

So-called “development fees” – engineering and planning charges on new construction – have been increased, but with development expected to slow a bit in the coming year, a 20 percent decrease in those revenues is projected.

One other fee hike is likely, in the stormwater management utility.

The fee will increase to $60 per year for a single-family residence, up from $48 in 2001. The move would bring in $125,000 in new revenue.

Spending

Staff: Two new positions are proposed. A “conditions of approval” planner would review building permits for compliance with local codes and ensure that construction conforms to what was approved.

Also, a civil engineer would be added to the public works department.

Salaries for city department managers will increase 4 percent under a deferred compensation agreement. Cost of living adjustments for various managers, set at 80 percent of the local consumer price index, will go up 3.2 percent.

Salaries for most city workers are already set by a collective bargaining agreement, while those for Bainbridge Police are currently under negotiation.

Computer upgrades: The budget calls for $242,000 in computer and software upgrades, to handle accounting, utility billing, and tracking of equipment maintenance and depreciation.

Spoils disposal: The city would contract for outside disposal of waste generated by ditch cleaning, shoulder grading and other public works activities. Cost: $50,000.

Fire safety: Under contract with the fire department, the city would boost spending for fire inspections of multi-family and commercial buildings by $25,578. Part of the contract cost is expected to be offset by building permit fees.

“I would hope what this says is that we can live with the 1 percent, regardless of whether I-747 passes,” Eells said.

The budget now goes to the city council for consideration.

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