Council passes 2013 budget with few changes
December 6, 2012
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Several transportation projects put on the books
The Newcastle City Council voted to pass its 2013 budget at its Dec. 4 meeting, and other than adding transportation projects, it does not look significantly different from the document presented to the council about two months ago.
The 2013 budget does not add any new taxes, with the council deciding against taking an allowable 1 percent increase in property tax, even though it did so a year ago.
With the city in better financial shape, including an expected $200,000 surplus from 2012, and a 2013 budget that is balanced, the council did not see a viable reason to take the 1 percent.
“It’s pretty clear for me,” Councilman Steve Buri said at the Nov. 20 meeting. “If you don’t need the money, don’t take it from the taxpayers. And we have a balanced budget, so why in the world would we raise taxes even a modest amount?”
Next year’s budget will 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.
The council did decide to go ahead with a reduction in community staff, reducing the parks program manager from a full-time position, saving about $30,000.
“It was concluded based upon the evaluation of the work output that it is not a full-time position,” Councilman Bill Erxleben said. “The important work can be done with a .6 employee.”
Council members John Dulcich and Carol Simpson did make one last attempt to maintain the post as a full-time position at the Nov. 20 council meeting, but the motion failed, 5-2.
City Manager Rob Wyman said he would have preferred to keep the role at a full-time position, rather than the six-tenths it was reduced to, but he understood the council’s reasoning.
The reduction will have an impact, Wyman said, and the next step will be to prioritize the position’s duties.
“There will certainly be things that we can’t do,” he said. “I mean you can’t just lop off 40 percent of a person and say we are going to do the same amount of work.”
In addition to pedestrian improvements on 116th Avenue Southeast, there are also funds allocated to add sidewalks to a portion of Southeast 73rd Place and repair phase one of Coal Creek Parkway in 2013.
The city secured a $400,000 grant from the state’s Transportation Improvement Board to fund half of the cost of the Coal Creek Parkway project.
The council voted to fund the remaining $425,000 for the project by transferring $225,000 from the general fund ending balance and taking the rest from the real estate excise tax fund.
By doing that, the city will still be able to use the full $683,000 in pavement overlay for other city streets.
“My thought is to get this fully funded without robbing from our overlay,” Dulcich said.
Between the Coal Creek Parkway project and the $683,000 for other streets, the city will spend about $1.5 million in pavement overlay next year.
“Any talk of us underfunding our overlay is not accurate for next year,” Wyman said. “We are going to spend a lot of money next year.”
Including the sidewalk projects, the city will spend close to $2 million on transportation improvements in 2013, which will have city staff members working at full capacity.
“I do think it’s a lot of projects, and I have confidence in our staff to figure out how to manage them,” Deputy Mayor Lisa Jensen said.
To manage all of the projects, Wyman said the city would have to increase staffing or consulting hours.
“We have a lot of projects coming in the door, so the good news is we can offset those costs with the development revenue that is coming in, but it is a lot to manage,” he said.
At the Dec. 4 meeting, the council voted 4-1 in favor of passing the budget, with Erxleben dissenting. Mayor Rich Crispo and Buri were not in attendance.
Erxleben said he voted against the 2013 budget because he believes the six-year financial forecast is too aggressive in forecasting revenues from potential projects and understates expenditures for pavement management in the future.