POULSBO — Many city departments have soldiered on with slashed budgets the last few years, but the Poulsbo staff and department heads are optimistic this is the last year of major budget crunching.
Poulsbo’s city department heads presented their budgets and new program requests to the Poulsbo City Council on Wednesday, many keeping their baseline budgets the same as in 2012.
In the preliminary 2013 budget, projected revenues from taxes, licenses and permits, and inter-governmental transfers for the general fund total $9.16 million, a decrease from the 2012 budget by more than $80,000.
Finance Director Deb Booher attributes this decrease to a lower sales tax projection in 2013. The general fund is mainly financed by taxes (sales, property, business/utility, and criminal justice).
The general fund is the largest operating fund in the city, which provides the majority of city services, including police, parks and recreation, planning, engineering, executive, legislative, financial services, and salaries. Salaries and benefits make up 63 percent of the general fund, which are projected to cost $6.23 million together.
The city is expecting $2,077,552 from the property tax levy, which is set at $1.71 per $1,000 of a property’s assessed value. That equates to $513 for the owner of a $300,000 house, a $2 decrease from 2012. The property tax revenue is a 2.36 percent decrease from last year’s property taxes.
The council also agreed to a temporary internal increase from the utility tax rate. Previous to 2011, 6 percent of utility rates (water, sewer, stormwater) would be taken from a customer’s bill for the general fund. In 2011, the council increased that to 8 percent, and this year the council agreed to a one-year increase to 10 percent, to help balance the general fund.
Public Works Director Barry Loveless said the customer doesn’t see these changes, and the difference in percentages comes from the utility savings account. Customers will see a 2.7 percent increase in their utility rates, adjusted for inflation.
The council accepted a $200,000 variance for the past three budgets, but due to careful financing throughout the years, has not yet touched reserves to balance the budget.
Currently, Booher estimates a $511,000 variance in the proposed 2013 budget. Suggestions from Booher and Mayor Becky Erickson lowered the variance to $183,319, which will be discussed by the council at the Nov. 21 meeting.
According to the budget, in an effort to reduce the variance in 2013, the normal transfers to Street Reserves (including pavement restoration) and Park Reserves were reduced by 50 percent, allowing funds to remain in the general fund.
The mayor’s executive budget has taken the biggest hit in the last few years. The mayor gave up an assistant position, decreasing the salary budget from $103,000 in 2010 to $69,000 in 2013. Erickson did request an additional $5,000 in her budget to hire a grant specialist, a person whose sole position is to research and write grants for the city’s projects.
Newly-appointed Deputy Chief Robert Wright presented the police budget, which requests $13,200 for a new K-9 program. The majority of the funding, $11,000, is a one-time cost to re-start the program, which shut down two years ago. Wright said they are also requesting a new police officer to keep up with calls for service and the city’s population.
The preliminary budget is on the city’s website, at www.cityofpoulsbo.com/finance/finance_budget.htm. No public comments were made during at Wednesday’s meeting. The council extended the public hearing to Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.