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Poulsbo City Council approves $28.2 million budget

POULSBO — The Poulsbo City Council unanimously approved on Dec. 11 the city’s 2014 budget, which comes in slightly higher than the previous year’s budget.

The city’s total funds for 2014 will be $28.2 million, including the general fund, utility funds, grants, impact fees and other funds.

The city’s general fund operating budget for 2014 is $10.3 million — an increase of $3.5 million or 14 percent over the 2013 budget.

The City Council is expected to formally adopt the budget at its next meeting on Dec. 18.

The budget is very much an echo of its 2013 predecessor, with a few modifications.

Poulsbo is expected to trim funds from services, such as streets and parks, over the coming year to pay for a new police officer, an initial cost of approximately $108,000.

The bump in the budget is also due to the cost of interlocal agreements with other agencies, some equipment purchases — such as a sidewalk sweeper — and contractual obligations with the union representing city employees. Wages and benefits are due to go up in 2014.

While agreement on the budget was found across the dais, council members did express concerns for the funding road ahead.

Council-man Ed Stern particularly felt that the new police officer, which he said was very much needed in Poulsbo, will come at the sacrifice to roads.

“I feel that we are effectively paying for this in short order by a reduction in our street funds,” Stern said.

“We don’t have the ability to tax for a police officer, but we do have the ability, with the voters’ approval and thoughtfulness, to tax for streets,” he added.

As in previous council meetings, Stern promoted the idea of a transportation benefit district.

Muni-cipalities can form such a district to fund roads through methods such as car tab fees.

“I would like to talk about this in 2014,” Stern said. “Making up for that shortfall, by putting a question to the voters, to form a transportation benefit district to make a car tab fee.”

Stern indicated that the conversation will come up next year, however, his colleagues had mixed responses to the idea.

“I’m not an advocate of going after license tab fees,” said Councilman Jeff McGinty.

Councilman Gary Nystul echoed McGinty’s sentiment.

“We certainly need to look at the street program,” Nystul said, noting that the city can apply for grants and pursue other funding options.

“I don’t know if I concur that a benefit district will raise enough money,” he said.

Nystul, however, had another concern with Poulsbo’s future financials.

“I have a greater concern, we got union contracts for 2015, we are barely scraping by this year,” Nystul said.

“The chunk of change we are going to need in 2015 to address union contacts and management compensation, I’m concerned it will be a bigger chunk,” Nystul said. “We may have a larger problem in 2015 than just streets.”

Mayor Becky Erickson has also begun petitioning the Legislature to form a public safety benefit district, which would allow the city to collect tax money to fund the city’s police.

For now, the 2014 budget is passing through the council, but council members are laying the groundwork for more major budget discussions over the coming year.

“The conversation continues next year,” Mayor Becky Erickson said to the council.

 

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