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Washington Voices

Budget process moves along

The Spokane Valley City Council on Tuesday took another look at the proposed 2013 city budget.

And while a hearing on the subject didn’t draw any comments from the public, council members weighed in.

Councilman Chuck Hafner questioned why the budget showed the city spending nearly $300,000 more than it is estimated to take in. “When I see something like that, it’s a little scary,” he said.

City finance director Mark Calhoun said the amount budgeted is higher than revenues largely because of a $350,000 emergency fund. “We don’t really think we’ll spend it,” he said.

The budget includes revenue from the allowed 1 percent increase in property taxes, and Councilman Dean Grafos questioned the assumption behind including those funds. “I don’t know at what point the council would ask to remove that,” he said.

City Manager Mike Jackson said he will make a formal budget presentation at the Sept. 11 council meeting. “We’ll show you the impact of making further reductions,” he said.

The proposed budget includes slightly more than $2 million for street preservation, with the money pulled from various funds. Jackson said he thinks that method of funding at least part of the annual street preservation needs can be sustained for four years.

Additional public hearings on the proposed 2013 budget are scheduled for Sept. 25 and Oct. 9.

In other business, the council voted unanimously to approve an updated interlocal agreement for emergency management services and briefly discussed its annual application process for local organizations to receive lodging tax money. The application deadline this year is Sept. 28, about two weeks later than usual.

Councilman Arne Woodard asked if the city could use some of the lodging tax money for way-finding signs, which Calhoun said he thinks is allowed. “So does that mean the city of Spokane Valley has to apply for its own money?” Woodard said. The signs should help draw traffic to businesses, Woodard said.

The council discussed setting aside some money for a future sign project before allowing community groups to apply for funding. Mayor Tom Towey said the city should identify a potential project before coming up with a cost estimate. “I think we would be guessing how much to set aside,” he said.

At the end of the meeting Jackson asked for permission to use $69,000 to hire an advertising firm to help the city create a brand and do some advertising to draw people to the city. The money was set aside in the 2012 budget for an economic development plan but the city is now doing its own plan and doesn’t need the money for that, Jackson said.

The council gave its enthusiastic approval to Jackson’s suggestion. “Great idea,” Grafos said.