Approval of city budget will return next meeting
Facing another tight budget year, the Airway Heights City Council voted to postpone a reduction in sewer rates for 2013.
The City Council received a suggestion from the FCS Group, which recommended reducing rates by 9.63 percent next year, which would have dropped rates from $67.50 to $61 per month. It would have resulted in an estimated $29,000 revenue drop.
One large concern factoring in the delay was a union contract currently in negotiation that could affect the city’s payroll.
“I want to reduce sewer rates as much as everybody,” Deputy Mayor Kevin Richey said. “We just don’t know how our contract negotiations are going to affect our budget and it could put us in a pretty bad situation.”
The City Council discussed dropping the rates by 2 percent or by 4.5 percent, in an effort to give back to residents after their support of constructing the city’s new wastewater treatment plant.
“I believe that our residents have sacrificed, and have sacrificed dearly,” Mayor Patrick Rushing said.
He went on to say reducing those rates would reflect the trust placed in the city with construction of the wastewater treatment plant.
“I’m hoping that these reductions will be an annual reduction to show that the money that we’ve invested, their money, we’ve invested in a treatment plant, is now coming back to show that they’ve given. And we’re ready to start showing that we were good stewards of their dollar when we needed to be,” Rushing said.
A 2 percent sewer rate cut would equal approximately $6,000, compared to the $29,000 reduction of a 9.63 percent cut.
The City Council ultimately voted unanimously to table the sewer rate reductions, but will receive updates on the city’s financial situation on a quarterly basis to see if reductions can be implemented.
City planner Derrick Braaten said a public hearing regarding the city’s implementation of the Joint Land Use Study will take place at the next planning commission meeting, Monday, Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. Both the city of Spokane and Spokane County have adopted the finalized document, which Medical Lake voted to not implement. Airway Heights has been working with other jurisdictions to find a suitable compromise.
Also at the meeting, the City Council heard the third presentation of its 2013 budget. Among the changes included from its previous draft include the addition of a building inspector position within the Building Department to largely handle residential inspections. City Council travel and training costs were also completely cut from $1,500 to zero. The city planner’s job description would change to include Geographic Information Systems components, factoring in an additional $4,292 in wages and benefits.
As a result of the changes, revenues for the current expense fund are budgeted to be $5.314 million, with expenditures coming in at $5.274 million after the adjustments.
The city’s street fund also saw a slight increase, following a $5,000 agreement with the Department of Transportation to maintain crosswalks and those respective signs in Airway Heights.
Proposed revenues in the water-sewer fund would also increase the ending fund balance from $3.8 million to $4.408 million, largely covered by a $750,000 from the wastewater debt sinking fund, meant to help stabilize rates after the wastewater treatment plant’s construction. The wastewater debt sinking fund would drop to $1.31 million after transferring the previous amount.
A third reading of the 2013 budget ordinance will take place at the next meeting, Monday, Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m.
Among the action items approved at the meeting included the acceptance of the Sunset Park reclaimed water project and the Spokane Raceway park lift station and reclaimed water project as complete. A final change order was approved for the Sunset Park project in the amount of $9,221.43.
The city’s winter festival will take place Saturday, Dec. 15, including photos with Santa at a breakfast in the community center and the tree lighting in Sunset Park.
James Eik can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.