Discussion begins on 2013 budget

November 1, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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City Manager Rob Wyman and Finance Director Christine Olson presented a balanced, and mostly status quo, 2013 preliminary budget to the Newcastle City Council at its Oct. 16 meeting.

The budget preserves core services, improves public safety and, per council policy, was presented as balanced without suggested new revenue sources and no property tax increase, Wyman said.

The preliminary budget includes a proposal to improve public safety by adding a 50-50 shared detective to the Newcastle police force, which would increase costs by about $60,000 for detective services.

The 50-50 shared detective would ensure the city is allocated a half-time detective that will spend half of his or her time working for the city, and the other half working for the county.

Currently, Newcastle is one of the only cities that contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office that does not have a full-time person who works as a detective for the city, Wyman said.

“If we can pull it off, it will be great for the community and it ensures we can keep on top of things, you know, burglary rings and things of that nature,” he said.

In order to present a balanced operating budget, cuts were proposed to staffing and the equipment rental fund.

Every year, the general fund makes a contribution to the equipment rental fund, which pays for new vehicles and capital equipment, Wyman said. For 2013, the contribution was reduced from $58,052 to $22,242.

“It’s not something that you want to do more than once, and every few years,” he said. “You need to ultimately repay the money into that fund, so in a subsequent year from now, we need to find money to put back into that fund.”

There was also a proposed reduction in community events staff, reducing the parks program manager from a full-time position.

“We’re not going to cut events, but the amount of time that the position spends helping with Eagle Scout projects, Newcastle Trails, getting grants for parks and trails, there is a hit there,” Wyman said.

In terms of 2013 transportation projects, among the proposed projects are $225,000 to construct sidewalks along a portion of 116th Avenue Southeast and $683,000 to fund the city’s pavement overlay.

During the public hearing, Sue Beverly, of the Friends of the Newcastle Library, asked the City Council to consider using the funds for 116th Avenue Southeast pedestrian improvements for Southeast 73rd Place improvements instead.

It was a rather brisk meeting that lasted just under two hours. There were few questions from the council members, who received the budget document the same day of the meeting.

But there weren’t many surprises, Mayor Rich Crispo said. That’s because Wyman made a concerted effort to create an ongoing dialogue about the budget to understand the council’s priorities throughout the year.

“We talked about it little bit by little bit, so when we presented this budget, I know the City Council got it right before the meeting that night, but there was nothing in there they haven’t seen,” Wyman said.

It was an effective process, Crispo said.

“I was very much supportive of that, of doing it along the way, because it is the council’s budget, not the staff’s budget and therefore the council needs to give input all the way along the road,” he said.

At its Nov. 6 meeting, the City Council will continue its discussion on the 2013 budget, including whether or not the city should take an allowable 1 percent increase in property tax.

But other than an attempt to fund pedestrian improvements on both 116th Avenue Southeast and Southeast 73rd Place, Councilman Bill Erxleben doesn’t think the budget will change much.

“I think what you see right now is pretty much what you are going to get,” he said.

 

If you go

The council will hold a second public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at City Hall in the Newcastle Professional Center, 12835 Newcastle Way, Suite 200.

 

On the web

The city has posted a copy of the 2013 preliminary budget on its website at http://bit.ly/VOLL1A.

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