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City ’05 budget focuses on core services

Operations spending would be up, overall spending down.

An unprecedented attempt to identify “core services” informs the city’s draft budget for 2005.

The effort to control costs by defining and hewing to essential functions comes as the city continues to feel the pinch of tax-limiting initiatives against community demands for service.

“It’s a good budget,” said Elray Konkel, new city finance director. “It’s a very solid budget. I can’t even begin to count how many staff hours are in this thing.”

The draft was unveiled by the administration at a special council meeting Wednesday evening. The document projects operating costs of $19.896 million in 2005, up from $18.102 million this year, although about $400,000 of the increase reflects interfund charges rather than new spending.

Among the more than 50 proposed “decision packages” – line items above and beyond core functions – are several new staff positions, including an in-house attorney. The Department of Public Works would like to make a limited-term engineering position full-time, to design projects now outsourced to consultants, while staff support for the Winslow Tomorrow project is called for.

Also proposed is a formal study of co-location of the municipal court and police department in a new building.

The year would be light on new capital projects, beyond a $4.8 million upgrade to the Winslow sewer treatment plant. Most of that project would be funded through an ultra-low-interest loan from the state.

Completion of the south-end sewer project, also funded by a 0.5 percent state loan, accounts for another $1.93 million in capital spending. Other spending is proposed on the Japanese American internment memorial site, non-motorized transportation and Winslow Way redesign.

In environmental spending, a new “shoreline stewardship” program for conservation projects is proposed. Open space acquisition funding of $500,000 is earmarked.

On the revenue side, the city’s property tax increase is capped at 1 percent; the only other increase proposed is an already-expected hike in Winslow-area water and sewer rates.

Operations and capital spending, debt service and transfer payments would put the city budget at about $34.62 million for 2005, down from a projected $36.709 million this year.

Copies of the draft budget are available in print and on CD, and will be posted to the city’s website. To request a copy, call 780-8604.

The council will hold a special budget workshop from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Oct. 11 at City Hall. A special meeting for public comment on the budget will be from 6-9 p.m. Nov. 3.

Other council budget deliberations are planned on Oct. 13, 25 and 27 and Nov. 10, with a public hearing on taxes and revenues from 6-9 p.m. Oct. 20.

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