Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hailey approves $10.8 million budget

Plan includes funding priorities for anticipated LOT funds

Express Staff Writer

Without much in the way of discussion, the Hailey City Council on Monday approved a finalized appropriations ordinance setting Hailey's 2006-2007 fiscal year budget at $10.8 million.

The vote constitutes the last major step the city must take in setting its budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on Oct. 1.

During meetings held throughout the past several months, members of the Hailey City Council have discussed various aspects of the city's 2006-2007 budget, which represents a 4.3 percent increase over last year's budget.

The budget approved by the council Monday night does represent several significant changes for the city.

Perhaps the most notable of these changes is the move by Hailey City Clerk and Treasurer Heather Dawson to discontinue the practice of deficit budgeting for the upcoming budget year.

According to Dawson, deficit budgeting is a practice where a city's operating deficits are paid for with money that was carried over from a previous budget cycle. By doing away with deficit budgeting, Hailey would begin to conform its annual budget development to actual revenue coming in.

The other significant change in the upcoming budget is the addition of local option tax funds into the revenue mix.

During a previous City Council meeting on Aug. 14, Hailey officials made a list of priorities for spending anticipated LOT funds. Hailey voters approved the LOT on May 23.

The LOT funding priorities, which are a part of the finalized appropriations ordinance, are:

· Priority No. 1: $10,000 to the Hailey Chamber of Commerce for the promotion of Hailey businesses.

· Priority No. 2: $225,000 in payroll salary for the hiring of two new police officers, one new full-time firefighter and an employee that will be used jointly between the Hailey Planning and Building departments.

· Priority No. 3: An estimated $140,000 in annual lease payments spread out over four years to purchase a new street snowblower and related equipment for the city's Public Works Department.

· Priority No. 4: $15,000 to help pay for lighted crosswalks in the downtown portions of the city.

· Priority No. 5: $35,000 to purchase a commuter van to shuttle Hailey city employees to and from their homes in the Magic Valley.

During Monday's meeting, Dawson also went over the first LOT returns for the month of July. With the returns from only 68 percent of businesses tabulated, the city has already taken in a total of about $41,000, she said told the council.

Because the due date for businesses to send in their returns was Aug. 25, Dawson said she suspects that the rest are likely still in the mail. "So it's not a total figure yet," she said.

While a local option tax committee originally predicted annual LOT returns of $325,000, Dawson cautioned against expecting more than that due to the high July returns.

"I don't think our revenue will be that high every month," she said. "We do expect some months to be peaks."

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