November 8, 2012 | Vol. 116 -- No. 29

Working the budget election eve

Central theme in Cheney council workshop Tuesday is don’t expect big changes in 2013

By BECKY THOMAS

Staff Reporter

On a night when most of the nation was focused on government on a larger scale, the Cheney City Council gathered with city department leaders to discuss governance on the local level, specifically the city’s 2013 budget.

The budget workshop, held at the city’s Utility Building Tuesday night, covered broad goals and specific changes coming in 2013. The city faces challenges, including possible rate increases from electricity and solid waste disposal providers, but leaders said at the meeting that those increased costs to the city would not necessarily mean higher rates for consumers.

Light director Joe Noland said BPA, which sells the city the majority of its electricity, was considering a 10 percent increase in the selling rate starting next fall. That would affect the city, but Noland said it wouldn’t cause an immediate crisis.

“The Light Department has reserves. It’s not like we’re going to run out right away and say, ‘We’re broke,’” he said. “The trend is going down. It’s something we’ll be having to look at.”

Public Works director Todd Ableman said he expected to see a rate hike in per-ton garbage disposal fees from the city of Spokane’s Waste-to-Energy Plant in 2013. Cheney is under contract to dispose of its garbage at the plant through next year, and Ableman said a Cheney-specific solid waste disposal plan was in the final stages of review.

Many city department heads told the council that they were keeping their budgets in line with 2012. Several noted that, while little was new, they had focused on retaining the essentials.

Fire Chief Mike Winters pointed out budget cuts, but emphasized that nothing would be cut to minimize firefighter safety. His crew would continue to be creative and efficient in training and in emergency response, he said.

“The staff is using their own time, their own money and their own resources to build training props and get things done,” he said.

The city plans to conduct analyses on sewer and electric rate structures in 2013, and while a temporary tax increase had been discussed for next year, Mayor Tom Trulove said that would be avoided.

“No new taxes right now,” he said, adding that he was comfortable with the city’s reserve fund and with the conservative revenue predictions for the new budget.

The City Council will hear detailed presentations on the Light and Public Works budgets at the next meeting, Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 6 p.m. in council chambers, 609 Second St.

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

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