Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Sun Valley authorizes $7 m budget

City costs and spending continue to rise

Express Staff Writer

Sun Valley City Council members last week adopted an approximately $7 million budget for the 2004-2005 fiscal year, effectively endorsing a 6 percent increase in city spending on administration and services.

In a 4-0 vote Thursday, Aug. 19, council members approved a plan that calls for the city to spend approximately $3,180,000 through its general fund and approximately $1,930,000 on road improvements.

In sum, the budget for the coming fiscal year?which starts on Oct. 1?proposes $7,053,000 in expenditures.

For the current fiscal year, the city budget originally called for spending approximately $3,010,000 through the city?s general fund?which covers all of the city?s legislative and administrative expenses except those incurred by the Streets Department. (The fund, however, was increased last spring by $210,000 to pay for several unforeseen expenses, ultimately bringing it up to $3,220,000.)

The city is planning to fund 25.75 full-time positions, including the mayor and City Council members. The budget also calls for funding 22.25 part-time positions, including 20 paid, on-call firefighters.

One of the largest expenditures proposed in the budget is an approximately $1.7 million allocation to rebuild and resurface the entire length of Fairway Road, which extends 1.4 miles northeast from City Hall.

The city is borrowing $1.3 million for the project and will pay for the balance with cash from the city?s pre-existing $1.46 million reserve fund.

Mayor Jon Thorson has said the plan will leave the city with just over $1 million in its reserve, enough cash to cover administrative costs for up to 15 weeks in the event of an unforeseen tax-revenue shortfall.

Before approving the budget last week, council members opted to reduce by $50,000 the city?s planned land-acquisition fund of $215,000. The funds will instead be put into a so-called ?fixed-asset replacement fund,? specifically to defray the estimated $500,000 cost of replacing by 2006 one of the city?s fire engines.

The city?s planned $1,930,000 capital-improvement fund is reserved entirely for road improvements. Beside the Fairway Road project, which is set to start next summer, the city is planning to rebuild and resurface Paintbrush Road and put a new chip-seal surface on the center section of Elkhorn Road.

The city is estimating it will receive $1,120,500 in the 2004-2005 fiscal year from local-option tax revenues, the same amount estimated in the current year?s budget.

Through June, the city had received approximately $697,000 in LOT revenues, with the most lucrative months yet to be tallied.

In a public hearing last Thursday, resident Ross Jennings asked council members why the city routinely decides to implement a 3 percent increase in prop-erty taxes each year. He said he believes the city should seek to keep the budget level rather than increasing expenditures each fiscal year.

?It somewhat disturbs me ? that the city keeps grinding away at three percent each year,? Jennings said. ?It?d be nice to not increase the budget for just one year.?

Thorson said the city is constantly seeing its costs for providing regular services go up and noted that the amenities provided to citizens ?aren?t free.?

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