November 4, 2010 in Washington Voices

Mayor recommends slashing library, police, golf course funding

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Mayor Wendy Van Orman proposed 2011 budget to the Liberty Lake City Council includes cuts to the library, police and Trailhead Golf Course.

In a presentation Tuesday evening at City Hall, Van Orman recommended the library reduce its hours of operation from 46 to 32, eliminate a cost-of-living adjustment raises in the police department and close the Trailhead Golf Course during the winter – making the golf pro and course superintendent seasonal employees.

“In order to close the $700,000 budget gap and begin to address significant capital projects and programs that have been deferred over the years, all city departments have been affected,” Van Orman told the council and the standing-room-only audience.

It was the first presentation of next year’s budget – the council doesn’t have to approved until Dec. 31 – and Van Orman asked the council to take the document home, look it over and forward any questions so she can have them answered by the next council meeting.

Administrative services manager Jessica Platt said the funds the city receives from liquor sales profits and excise taxes, about $85,000, were not included in the budget, since the city could lose those funds with the passage of Initiatives 1100 and 1105. As of Wednesday, those initiatives were not passing, so the city may be able to add those funds back into the budget.

Former mayor Steve Peterson, who opposes cuts in the library and at the golf course, suggested the council go back and look at line items in the general fund and then restructure the budget. He said that the new utility taxes approved by the council at the last meeting weren’t good for the citizens, since residents are able to write off property taxes when they file their federal income taxes. He suggested a levy lid lift to offset the funds the city receives from the utility tax.

Peterson said the decision to lay off employees at the golf course during the winter would be a detriment to the city, since the golf course can generate income for the city during those months.

“What you do on one thing will affect the other,” Peterson said.

Along with the budget proposal, the council also heard the first reading of the ordinance that will levy the regular property tax. The city is required to certify this ordinance by Nov. 30.

Currently, the city can collect $3.60 per $1,000 in assessed property value. Platt said that $1.50 of the $3.60 goes directly to the fire district, 50 cents goes to the library and the city collects the rest. The city can raise that levy by 1 percent a year without voter approval, and Platt recommended raising the funds the city receives to $1.68 per $1,000. If the city decides to raise it more than that, the city would have to put it on the ballot.

Councilman Odin Langford asked the city staff to look into a levy lid lift and the feasible time the city could bring it before the voters, although he realizes the funds from a lift wouldn’t be available to the city right away. If the city wanted to put this on the ballot, it would have to wait until April since the Central Valley School District will have a bond on the ballot in February, and the funds wouldn’t be collected right away.

“In this context, I feel we have done as much brainstorming that we can do in this situation,” Langford said.

Councilman David Crump agreed that he would like to see information about a levy lid lift, but had his reservations about it.

“I don’t think that’s a long-term solution,” he said.

The council will continue the budget discussion and levy ordinances at its next meeting on Nov. 16 at 7 p.m.


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