December 8, 2011 in Washington Voices

Liberty Lake council eyes budget with utility tax in mind

By The Spokesman-Review
 

The Liberty Lake City Council met Tuesday to discuss next year’s budget and whether to cut the utility tax and pay off some debt the city has accrued over the last 10 years.

After looking at the history of Liberty Lake’s budget since 2007, the council then took a look at what to do about 2012.

Finance Director RJ Stevenson presented to the council a couple of scenarios regarding the utility tax. He showed them what the city’s budget would look like with a 3 percent utility tax without paying off any debts, a 3 percent utility tax if some of the debts have been paid off and keeping the utility tax at 6 percent without paying off any debts.

He told council members they could pass the budget at Tuesday’s meeting without moving forward on decisions about the utility tax and the city’s debt until later – they would just have to make budget amendments when that time came.

Councilwoman Susan Schuler asked Stevenson if she could see what the budget would look like if they cut out the utility tax altogether.

Schuler said she has been approached by business members and community members and asked if she could vote to do away with the utility tax. She wanted to see what the city’s budget would be without it but is hesitant to cut it altogether at this point.

“It’s difficult to say let’s go to zero, but (what if) next year we have to go to 3 (percent),” she said.

The council asked Stevenson if he could prepare scenarios for the budget with a 4 percent utility tax, 5 percent and 6 percent.

Councilman Josh Beckett said the council had never had a budget discussion that was so complete and easy to understand. He said he needed time to think about what they had discussed before making any decisions.

The council decided to hold a special meeting Tuesday to make their final decisions regarding those three issues – the budget, the utility tax and paying off the debt. The meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in council chambers. While the council did hold a public hearing on the budget Tuesday night, it will also take public comment at the meeting next week.

The council did, however, decide to renew its agreement with Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Services for animal control in the city.

Police Chief Brian Asmus told the council he did a study in 2008 to compare SCRAPS, and the police department in this area, and he found the cost was neutral but SCRAPS provided better service. The council voted unanimously, with all members in attendance, to approve the contract.

The council also decided to extend its solid waste contract with Spokane County and the city of Spokane for another three years.

Reach Lisa Leinberger at lisal@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5449.

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