City Council debates 2008 budget

MARYSVILLE Up for approval by City Council at its Nov. 26 meeting, the citys proposed 2008 budget totals $118 million, including general fund expenditures of $30.8 million.
As is normal, the general fund covers the day-to-day operating expenses of the city, paying for everything from police to roadwork.
Overall, officials seemed pleased with the numbers presented by the administration last week.
We worked hard on that budget, said Mayor Dennis Kendall, who said he has strived to operate the city as a business, handing more control and accountability to his various department heads.
Finance Director Sandy Langdon said when she arrived here several years ago, officials were talking about laying off city employees to make ends meet. Now, the proposed budget includes hiring seven new workers in the area of public safety and elsewhere. She also noted the city brought in nine new people this year.
Still, there is at least one problem area in the new budget. The proposed spending plan awards the city street department $3.5 million, including $800,000 for infrastructure repair. But Chief Administrative Officer Mary Swenson said about $1 million actually is needed to fully fix Marysvilles existing streets. She noted the road and traffic situation only was made worse by the failure of Issue 1, the statewide transportation package voters turned down earlier this month.
Proposed numbers do not include, at this point, a possible 1 percent increase in the city property tax that would be used for a community policing program. Council members will decide the fate of that issue when they vote on the final spending package. The current numbers do include a 2 percent increase in water and sewer fees and 1 percent property tax hike to benefit city EMS services.
Swenson said the water and sewer rate hike has been an annual increase for at least a couple of years. She said the administration, with Council approval, instituted the regular increase to avoid sudden, much larger hikes up to 8 percent as have occurred in the past.
Langdon said the EMS levy is similar to the more controversial tax increase for community policing. The state allows cities to pass the increase without going to voters for approval.
Other major expenditures include $11.5 million for police and $6.5 million for the fire department. Those numbers are up $1.6 million and $1.4 million respectively over last year.
In other areas, the city wants to spend $38 million for utilities, including a capital projects fund of $17 million. Solid waste collection will cost $3.9 million. The parks and recreation department is slated to receive $2.1 million, up from $1.9 million spent this year.
With regards city parks, officials noted the city still is subsidizing the Cedar Crest Golf Course. Course operating expenses are set at $1.3 million, but course revenues are projected to fall about $175,000 short of that mark. Swenson believes the city will need to continue to subsidize the course for the foreseeable future, though she also noted the 2007 subsidy was over $200,000.
The budget lists as program requests expenditures for everything from temporary employees to dollars for a previously announced study aimed at revamping downtown Marysville. Other program requests would cover such things as tree replacement on SR 528 and a new video security system at Jennings Park. A few program requests attracted both positive and negative attention from City Council.
No one objected to $75,000 to hire a crime analyst for the police department. But several Council members, mostly notably Councilman Jeffrey Vaughan, dont like the idea of spending $12,800 on Blackberry phones to be used by the administration.
Following the proposed numbers, the city would carry over about $31 million from 2007 into 2008. Langdon said the goal is to keep the citys reserves at about 8 percent of the total budget, while aiming for a reserve of 10 percent.

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