Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Sun Valley begins budget hearings

Express Staff Writer

The Sun Valley City Council began the initial review of the 2006-2007 fiscal year draft budget during a Tuesday work session. The council will continue to review the budget at 9 a.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. Thursday, June 28 and 29, at Sun Valley City Hall.

The draft of the budget calls for approximately $6.9 million in city spending for the 2006-2007 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1 and ends Sept. 30, 2007.

During the first work session, the council reviewed the city's revenue analysis and multi-year budget plans. For the first time, the city budget includes forecasted revenues and expenditures through the 2008-2009 fiscal year for the general, street, workforce housing, debit and land acquisition funds.

"I think the work that (City Administrator Virginia Egger) and her staff have done is remarkable. They are thorough and they encompass data we didn't have before," Sun Valley Mayor Jon Thorson said.

The multi-year funds enable the city to plan for immediate and long-term financial needs. The multi-year budget approach provides three years of prior financial data, the new fiscal budget, and two additional years of budget projections. If adopted, the multi-year budget will not commit the city to expenditures beyond the fiscal year. Instead, the multi-year budget acts as a planning tool to direct future fiscal decisions.

"When you do this kind of work, it doesn't make it any easier for the City Council. In some ways it may make it more challenging because you may see what it (the city's financial situation) may look like even beyond your term ... but that's the value of doing this," Egger said.

The multi-year fund approach includes a revenue analysis that evaluates existing revenue sources and identifies additional potential funding sources, such as electric franchise fees, planning and zoning fees, and local option taxes.

Sun Valley collects a 3 percent local option tax on lodging, liquor by the drink and retail sales except construction materials. The tax exempts ski lift tickets and building materials, a policy that was instated in 1999.

Before any discussion of local option tax revenue, the council heard annual budget requests from Ketchum Area Rapid Transit, the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau, Blaine-Ketchum Housing Authority and the city of Ketchum's Recreation Department.

Ketchum recreation services requested $30,000 to expand youth programs and facilities.

To maintain marketing efforts, Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Carol Waller approached the council to renew the city's standard contribution of 25 percent of local option tax revenues. This year, the city recommended allocating $398,000 to the chamber.

"We are your economic development arm," Waller said.

The council questioned Waller in reference to Ketchum snow removal, marketing of the Elkhorn Golf Club, Sun Valley Co.'s contribution to the chamber budget, sports marketing and promoting intellectual conferences.

The city will present the proposed 2006-2007 fiscal year budget July 20 at a public hearing. Also in July, the council will likely amend the current-year budget.

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