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Friday, June 18, 2004


Budget season open in Hailey

Transportation to drive focus of streamlined proposal

Express Staff Writer

Hailey City Administrator Jim Azumano this week delivered a scaled back budget proposal for the 2004-2005 fiscal year.

Presented as the first in a series of workshops leading up to a July 26 budget hearing, the Hailey City Council will be discussing budget issues at each city council meeting prior to the July deadline, said Hailey city clerk Heather Dawson.

"This was the first stab at the budget," said Mayor Susan McBryant.

Initially showing a 2 percent reduction in the budget, the city is trying to loosen up funds for new priorities set out at a goal setting meeting held earlier in the year, she said.

So far, Azumano has presented recommendations for the city’s general and bond funds. It was the first chance for the mayor and city council to view the proposed budget.

At the next two council meetings, members will review water and sewer user and replacement funds and capital improvement funds. They will begin to make comments on whether the budget is in line with the city’s goals.

The proposed general fund budget for fiscal year 2004-2005 is $4.5 million. Last year the budget was $4.6 million.

Azumano explained that the city’s approach to looking at the budget is two fold. City leaders are focused on identifying goals for the city that will drive the budget. City staff is focused on determining if services are being provided efficiently and effectively to achieve those goals.

Last year, one of McBryant’s goals was to boost base salary levels for city staff. One of the new goals for the city is to improve transportation infrastructure to improve pedestrian safety, she added.

The city plans to scale back department budgets in several areas to accommodate the new goal. Employees can expect to see regular raises, McBryant said. But, some department goals may not be achieved.

For example, two places where Azumano said the city may "hold the line" on the budget is by eliminating contracting of construction plans for a new fire station and overtime budgeted for snow removal.

Public comment on any budget question will be heard at all city council meetings until the official public hearing Aug. 16, which is a statutory hearing when the council sets a budget above which it cannot exceed.

McBryant said as the city deals with a 7 percent growth rate the community is financially healthy, but diminished levels of service could also include eliminating a patrol officer position that was budgeted as well as a reduction in library service.

Currently, the city is working on a land acquisitions map that will identify parcels the city would take for improving the transportation infrastructure.

"We are working to bring out the costs of acquiring that land," Dawson said. "By July we’ll be talking about the costs we expect to have and how (improvements) .can or cannot be achieved."

Dawson said that through the new budget the city is also trying to show the true costs of service to the community. Department heads have been asked to calculate actual costs for providing ideal levels of service.

"Jim has helped a great deal," McBryant said. "He sat down with departments and went through their budgets line by line, even looking at what it costs for police to have their shirts pressed. It (budget analysis) takes hours. It is why we hired an administrator."

As the city examines what it takes for government to function, McBryant said one thing that is clear is that the city must aggressively make money if any pending annexations are approved or services will decline further.

An annexation application for of the Quigley Ranch is expected soon, McBryant said. In addition, an application for the Justus Ranch off Broadford Road may soon be re-submitted. The Cutters Ranch application is currently under review by the city council.

"All (annexation proposals) are interesting considerations. (The proposed budget) gives the council a clearer idea of city goals. It will make their decisions easier to make," McBryant said.


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