Cheney Free Press -

 
 

By BECKY THOMAS
Staff Reporter 

Cheney in $700,000 budget hole

Loss of state shared revenues causes budget crunch; city vows to maintain services

 


A continued sluggish economy combined with the local effects of state budget cuts equals trying times for the city of Cheney as budget season kicks off.

City Administrator Arlene Fisher estimated revenues would be down around $700,000 by the end of 2012, but stressed that the city would have a balanced budget and would not cut services to citizens for 2013.

“Our first priority is maintaining the level of service we provide. We will accomplish that,” she said. “That is the mayor’s position and I have 98 employees committed to that.”

Current revenue losses in the city include losses from state shared revenues and local declines. In the last state budget session, the Legislature approved cuts to shared revenues to cities in liquor, sales tax and criminal justice.

“This is affecting all cities,” Fisher said. “We’re all in the same boat.”

In 2012, these losses hit home, stretching the current year’s budget. Cheney has lost money from liquor taxes—around $215,000 from state profit sharing and excise taxes after liquor privatization, natural gas use taxes—down 45 percent due to low prices, adult probation services—down around 50 percent and declining building permit revenue—down around 50 percent since 2009.

The city has also seen drastically declining interest income on its revenues and cash-on-hand. Cheney, like most Washington cities, earns interest on those funds held by a bank, but the total has declined with shrinking interest rates. Fisher said the city gained $360,000 in interest in 2007. This year, she said the city would get $5,000.

“Same amount of money, same bank,” she said.

These revenue losses affect the city’s general fund, which pays for services like police, fire and public works. In total, the revenue losses mean the city must shrink its budget for 2013, and the proposed $23.1 million budget amount would be smaller than 2012’s budget of $23.3 million. Specific cuts remain to be seen, as department leaders present their proposed budgets at City Council meetings this month.

“We’re still trying to maintain our service levels,” she said, which means department heads have been tasked with shrinking their budgets by putting off purchases and streamlining operations. “We’re still in the budget process, so there’s a lot to work out.”

Becky Thomas can be reached at becky@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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