News

Mayor outlines the city budget for 2005

By Dennis Box

The Courier-Herald

It's time for the city of Bonney Lake to again balance the yearly checkbook.

Mayor Bob Young stated the city staff has put together a preliminary budget for the city, hitting the target at around $50 million, very close to last year's $49 million budget.

An outline of the budget has been sent to the City Council.

"It is a balanced budget," Young said. "The staff has worked very hard on this budget. It has been a collaborative effort with the department heads and the staff. Not everyone won or lost. We tried to address every priority of the council. We have gone out of our way to address their concerns."

Balancing the budget, according to the mayor, is based upon a hike in utility tax rates. The budget outline calls for an increase of up to 10 percent on the tax for water, sewer and storm water drainage.

Young noted that tax-cutting initiatives, like the $30 car tabs Initiative 776, have cost the city needed revenue.

"The initiatives have knocked out hundred of thousands of dollars," Young said. "We've been using our general fund reserves to keep the status quo. We are not in a position anymore to subsidize our utilities. People need to look and see when they vote other taxes out, we have to come up with the money somewhere."

Most council members seemed pleased with their first peek at this year's budget and the proposed spending.

"It looks like the mayor has covered the bases," Councilman Jim Rackley said. "I wish there were more funds. I'm afraid we will have to increase the utility rates."

A number of items in the budget are directly tied to the tax rate increase, including the purchase of a street sweeper and newly-hired employees for parks, streets and utilities.

"It has always been my view utilities must pay for themselves," Deputy Mayor Dan Swatman said. "We need to take a careful look at the rate structure. The rates need to support eventual replacement of components or folks end up paying astronomical rates."

The utility tax increase and certain departments may be in for some wrangling, according to Councilman Neil Johnson.

"They have to prove it to me that they need a tax-rate hike," Johnson said. "From what I've seen of the budget, some of the departments should be trimmed. I think the Finance Department may be top heavy now. We've taken away some of their work. They don't do the garbage or utility billing anymore. We may also need to look at the Building Department. On the other hand, if we are going to keep a gigantic water system we may need to expand Public Works."

The mayor noted he hoped the budget could be approved by early November.

"We are doing much better than other cities," Young said. "I think we've come up with a very plausible package."

Budget notables

The police department is budgeted to receive:

€ another officer

€ a promotion of the investigation's sergeant to lieutenant

€ evidence management software

€ a new motorcycle

€ $20,000 in police operations overtime

Other notable items in the budget include:

€ programmed debt funding to construct an $8 million City Hall

€ $25,000 in the park's budget for wetlands

€ $30,000 to support an urban forestry program and Arbor Day

€ $40,000 for a sidewalk program

€ hiring another Court Clerk for the municipal court

€ increased labor funding for parks

€ purchase of a street sweeper

Dennis Box can be reached at dbox@courierherlad.com.

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