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Stay the course, mayor's budget says

Bucking economic downturn and taxpayer revolt, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy has proposed a goal-oriented budget for 2003 that would increase city spending.

The budget, Kordonowy wrote in introductory comments, was drafted with an eye on the island’s long-range Comprehensive Plan, “to ensure our path...is progressing toward the community’s vision.”

Released this week, the draft lays out an operations budget of $17.01 million for 2003, up from $16.5 million this year. A total “baseline” budget of $29.61 million including capital needs is proposed, to maintain city services at current levels.

The mayor then proposes add-ons totaling $1.69 million, including several new programs and initiatives, and 5.75 full-time equivalent new staff members. By department, significant items include:

l Executive: The mayor’s office proposes $97,000 in new support for local human services agencies, and new spending of $36,000 for Bainbridge Island Broadcasting, Team Winslow and the Arts and Humanities Council.

A communications initiative ($50,000) that would include advertising, brochures and mailings is proposed “to improve and support the relationship between the city and the community.”

A formal analysis of the city hall workspace ($40,000) would give a three-year report card on the functionality of the building as it relates to the workforce inside. The study could lead to reorganization of some offices.

l Legislative: Plans have resurfaced for laptop computers and support for council members (cost: $20,000). Lighting improvements to the council chambers ($10,000) are also proposed, to improve the production quality of meetings shown on BIB.

l Finance: A department beset by recent accounting problems seeks significant upgrades to its billing network and software (more than $300,000), and permanent retention of a full-time accountant. City debt service is also up significantly in 2003, to begin payback of approximately $4.5 million bonds that will be issued for purchases under the open space program.

l Public works: The department is asking for new hires totaling 1.5 FTE for maintenance of the Winslow-area water system.

Updates to various planning documents, in several cases as a result of state mandates, include the Winslow water system plan ($50,000) and the Waterfront Park long-range plan ($10,000). Other equipment and miscellaneous needs include a tractor mower ($40,000) and groundwater monitoring ($15,000) to maintain the reclaimed Vincent Road landfill. Support for Winslow-area streetscape planning would be $35,000.

l Planning: The department seeks no new personnel. Requests of about $150,000 in new funding would cover revisions or implementation of policies ranging from vegetation management to shoreline and wetlands regulations.

l Police: The department seeks to add one officer to keep up with increasing call volume. That’s in addition to a second parking enforcement officer, already approved by the council, who should hit the streets this fall.

On the revenue side, the 2003 budget hews to the voter-mandated 1 percent growth limitation on local property taxes. The $5.05 million raised would cover about one-third of city operations spending, the balance coming from sales taxes, developer fees, utility taxes, state shared revenues and other sources.

The document notes strong growth in Bainbridge sales tax revenues, compared to Kitsap County and the state as a whole. That growth is attributed to the finance, insurance and real estate sectors, wholesaling and contracting.

Even the slowest-growing sector in the island economy, retail, has outpaced growth countywide, the finance department says.

Under an aggressive new schedule, the budget document could be adopted by Thanksgiving.

“It’s a good first draft,” said Bill Knobloch, chair of the council’s finance committee. “The mayor submits her proposals, and now the council gets a say. This is democracy in action for the community.”

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