September 19, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 22

Workshop sets up 2014 ML budget

Last Tuesday, Sept. 10, the Medical Lake City Council held its annual budget workshop meeting, discussing next year’s financial outlook.

City Administrator Doug Ross said there aren’t many unexpected budget changes for 2014, given the city’s tax base. Most of Medical Lake’s revenues come from property taxes, preventing any big income swings in either direction.

“Revenues are flat; they’ve always been flat and they always will be flat,” he said. “We’re not a large retail or commercial base.”

While Medical Lake may not have a bustling commercial sector, its current makeup helped the city weather the ongoing economic downturn. Instead of seeing massive revenue drops like other cities, Medical Lake remained fairly unscathed, going about business as usual.

“The reality is we pretty much know what next year’s budget will be, within reason,” Ross said. “And the City Council does a wonderful job of managing the budget and their expectations, which is very important here.”

The steady tax base does, however, prevent the city from undertaking some long-term budget items, Ross said.

“But those one-time costs, the city can handle those,” he said.

The Fire Department has equipment upgrades every few years, including one this next year. Around 14 sets of turnouts, firefighters gear, need to be replaced at a cost of approximately $2,000 each.

One item likely to come up next year is the topic of curbside recycling. The City Council previously looked at the issue earlier this year, but didn’t make a final decision either way. If Medical Lake does elect to go with curbside recycling, it will be a required addition to residents’ garbage bill.

“It is a commitment; it’s probably not something you go away from once you go to it,” Ross said. “We want to make sure, so we’ll probably start those discussions again around the first of the year, maybe in the springtime if we really want to pursue mandatory curbside recycling.”

Another item that will make its rounds is street projects. Over the last four years, a number of streets have benefitted from chip sealing, including San Salvador Street, Jefferson Street, Fourth Street and Lake Street.

“We’re all pretty pleased with how it turned out and I think we’re going to start looking at that as a viable option to repair our streets,” Ross said. “It’s a fraction of the cost of doing asphalt overlays, the process has gotten much better than it used to be.”

Ross said the city has anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 to do street repairs in any given year. As a result, smaller chip sealing projects have been beneficial at many levels.

“The process is much better, it’s quicker, there’s a lot less loose rock. So I think we’re to the point where we’re pretty pleased how a couple of these jobs have turned out,” he said.

Medical Lake remains dependent on receiving grant funding for the large street projects, but benefits from having some state highways running through the city.

Another item on the list for the city, although not necessarily for 2014, is to replace an aging 1967 grader currently used in various roles.

James Eik can be reached at james@cheneyfreepress.com.

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