Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

City council gets budget requests

 

November 30, 2017



Do you remember 1980?

“Airplane” was one of the most popular movies that year, Mount St. Helens blew up and the U.S men’s hockey team beat the Soviet Union team en route to the gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, N.Y.

Minimum wage was $2.39 an hour; a gallon of gas was $1.03 and a similar amount of milk $1.60. The average annual income was $11,321 and a new car went for $5,413.

The city of Cheney’s total governmental revenues were just over $1.27 million with current expenses the same, and the entire budget package was about half the thickness of a new legal pad. These were figures Cheney City Administrator Mark Schuller reminded City Council members of during their Nov. 14 general fund accounts public hearing as he pointed out that 37 years later, the budget documents barely fit in a three-inch thick three-ring binder and total governmental revenues and expenses topped $12.6 million.

Administration

Four departments gave presentations at the Nov. 14 meeting, beginning with Administration, which tabs its 2018 expenses at $961,800. About 38 percent, $368,800, goes to salaries and benefits with another 21.7 percent, $209,000 to legal services.

Schuller ticked off a number of 2017 accomplishments, the top being the implementation of the city’s new website. The department also added a new human resource generalist position, a title Schuller has held for several years along with City Administrator and Parks and Recreation Director, used money provided by the levy lid lift to purchase public safety needs and continued working with local business people and Eastern Washington University officials on a business incubator concept — Innovate Cheney.

Schuller said work on the latter will continue into 2018 as one of the department’s goals. Also goals are working on ways to market the city’s community center — the Wren Pierson Building — as a location for meetings, events and activities, and working with the Cheney Merchants Association to support and grow retail locally, now that the West Plains Chamber of Commerce has moved its offices to Airway Heights.

“The West Plains chamber has essentially become the Airway Heights chamber,” Schuller said.

Finance

Development of a disaster recovery plan for essential records was one of several goals Finance Director Cindy Niemeier listed for 2018. Alongside that is creating a management index and protection plan for those records with better public access.

Currently the city’s essential records are kept in a vault, and Niemeier said she and Deputy City Clerk Keri MacDonald have talked often about what would happen should they be destroyed. Niemeier also listed a goal in the coming year of enhancing the security protocols for the city’s servers and email systems.

“It’s scary the number of dings we get daily,” she said about outside entities attempting to hack into the city’s system.

Finance’s 2018 budget request totals just over $1.233 million, but the 10-person department is also responsible for budgeting almost $3.954 million in other account funds. Some of those include capital funds ($1,064,300), real estate excise taxes ($731,000) and lodging taxes ($190,500).

Most importantly, Niemeier said the department continues to track and keep up with changes from the state auditor while maintaining a perfect audit record. In this, Mayor Tom Trulove noted the city hasn’t had an adverse finding in its audits in over 10 years.

Municipal Court

Receipt of two public defense grants totaling $30,000 and negotiation of a $59,000 court contract with Medical Lake were two of the accomplishments Cheney Municipal Court Administrator Terri Cooper cited in her presentation.

Just as important were three no-cost resource items: almost 1,600 hours of work by two criminal justice interns ($18,200 value), 160 community service workers providing another 1,250 hours ($13,750 value) and two domestic violence victim advocates from the YWCA (invaluable).

The four-person department projects expenses in 2018 at $355,000, of which $286,200 are salaries and benefits. Cooper estimates the court should collect a total of $374,285 in revenue in 2017, $248,970 through Cheney fees and $125,315 from the state. Much of those fees come from parking violations and probation fees.

Goals for 2018 include expansion and promotion of the Cheney Youth Court, restoration of court operations funding and of the department’s computer replacement program.

Parks and Recreation

Cheney’s parks and recreation had a 10.76 percent increase in revenue through October, a product, Director Mark Schuller said, that comes from more participation in department programs. That and completion of a significant portion of renovation work at the city’s Sutton Park gazebo topped the list of accomplishments in 2017, along with the hiring of a full-time recreation coordinator and installing a new Park Board.

The four-person department has set an additional 11 percent increase in revenues as a goal for 2018. Projected revenues were slated at just over $1 million, of which 84 percent ($886,000) come from taxes and recreation program fees.

Proposed expenses equal revenues, and are fairly equally divided between four areas: full-time salaries (25.56 percent), part-time/seasonal employees (25.21 percent), maintenance and operations (23.94 percent) and full/part time benefits (20.02 percent).

Besides increasing revenues, Schuller said goals include getting the new 50 Acre Park sports fields playable, repairs to the pool and park shelters and restrooms and a video surveillance system at problem areas in the system — particularly Centennial Park which is regularly hit by vandalism.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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