Medical Lake City Council reviews budget for 2014
The Medcial Lake City Council passed the first reading of the city’s 2014 budget at its Tuesday, Nov. 19 meeting.
Prior to the budget’s first reading, the council held a public hearing to go over some of the finer points for next year. City Administrator Doug Ross said not much has changed from 2013, given the city’s generally flat revenue stream year-to-year.
“We’re not adding stuff,” he said.
Finance Director Jennifer Hough echoed Ross’ point, noting that there were limitations to the city’s budget.
“You’re still limited as far as what goes in and what goes out,” she said.
One of the larger changes was in the garbage fund, which will save around $1,500 to $2,000 a month for Medical Lake. The city was being charged an excessive amount for garbage services, resulting in the change.
Some department funds are slightly lower than last year, Hough said. Those decreases come from analyzing what was needed over the last couple of years, making departments operate a bit more efficiently.
Councilman Art Kulibert asked whether there has been any indication the city is losing money on the telephone business and operations tax. He said articles have shown some cities had less revenue because business owners were changing to cellphones instead of the traditional landline. Hough said there weren’t any indications of a change in Medical Lake.
The budget’s first reading passed 6-1, with Councilman AJ Burton opposing on the grounds that the city sends taxpayer-provided funds to another organization in the region, Project Access. Burton said he believes those funds should stay within the city, since they were given by residents in the first place.
The City Council also passed the second reading of a 1 percent increase in property taxes and its EMS rate for 2014 by a 6-1 vote, with Burton opposing for the same reason as mentioned above.
Ross said online utility bill-pay for residents was about to go live, after facing additional delays.
“We’ve been telling you and telling you and telling our residents. This is so close,” he said. “I hope to send you an email (Wednesday) saying it’s up and running.”
There is a fee for using the online billing system, in the form of $2.95. None of that money goes to the city, but rather to the software distributor. There are no additional fees for paying in-person at City Hall.
“None of that goes to the city,” Hough said.
The future of handling garbage was another item that received a good bit of attention, and will likely be a heavy topic in the spring. Ross said Spokane County and the city of Spokane were asking jurisdictions to sign on to an interlocal agreement to use its facilities.
“Basically what the county is saying is that if you don’t sign an interlocal with them, your residents won’t be able to use the Waste to Energy Plant for their own personal use. That’s really kind of what I was told today,” Ross said.
Despite what he suggested was a thinly veiled threat from the county, Ross said the city could save additional funds by going a different route.
“I still think you can reduce your tipping fees by a good $30 a ton by having somebody haul it. But we’ll explore all that in the springtime,” he said.
The City Council also approved two separate donations to the Fire Department, one for $25 and another for $50. Both were made in memoriam.
Looking to the future, the City Council will have a public hearing on its moratorium regarding marijuana-related businesses. Cities across the West Plains and the state are gearing up for applications to allow retail, production and processing operations in jurisdictions.
The next City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the council chambers.
James Eik can be reached at email@example.com.