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LL council faces tight budget

Thu., Nov. 5, 2009

New accounting software just one of many tough decisions

There was a mish-mash of issues Tuesday at the Liberty Lake council meeting, a refreshing change from marathon meetings devoted to one main subject.

Council members asked a few preliminary questions about the budget proposed by Mayor Wendy Van Orman at the last meeting. If the pushback to a request to buy new accounting software is any indication, the budget discussion may get contentious in the coming weeks.

The city is using DOS-based accounting software that is no longer sold or supported. City staff must spend a lot of time entering information manually. Seven bids were received and BIAS Software was the lowest bidder at $21,367. Nearly half that amount was set aside in the 2009 budget for software replacement and the remainder is in the proposed 2010 budget. Council member Judi Owens recommended that the city purchase the software immediately.

Council member Patrick Jenkins objected, saying the proposed 2010 budget already includes expenditures of $8,024,038 versus revenues of $7,899,155. “The question is, how much more do we spend?” he said.

Van Orman pointed out that several funds in the budget have excess money left over from previous years. The excess expenditures will be covered by that money carried over in the city’s beginning fund balance, she said.

“We have saved to make up more than the difference,” said Owens. “We have saved the money. Now it’s time to spend the money.”

The motion to purchase the software was approved by Owens and council members David Crump and Ryan Romney. Council members Neal Olander and Susan Schuler were absent.

During the brief budget discussion, Crump proposed cutting the money available in the legislative category, since only half of the money budgeted for 2009 has been spent. “I think there’s some money that can be saved there,” he said.

Jenkins proposed cutting the $55,000 in beautification money proposed for the partial first phase of the new arboretum and using it to make up for the difference between expenses and revenues without dipping into the city’s reserves.

A public hearing on the budget will be held during the next regular council meeting on Nov. 17. Also scheduled for consideration is whether or not to raise the city’s property taxes. The mayor has proposed not raising property taxes this year, but the council must also give its approval.

In other business, the council was reintroduced to the 2008-2014 Capital Facilities Plan. The plan will be updated to reflect any changes in the city’s intentions to build various amenities, including a water feature at the corner of Country Vista Drive and Liberty Lake Road and expanding the city council chambers.

“It’s a plan,” said community development director Doug Smith. “It provides no certainty, no obligation.”

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