Friday, August 1, 2008

Sun Valley’s proposed budget gets slashed

Spending on recreation cut by $65,000

Express Staff Writer

Wayne Willich

The City of Sun Valley could be short $117,000 this year, because state sales tax revenues are low. The state's revenues are allocated to cities throughout Idaho. The Sun Valley City Council discussed the matter in a special meeting about the city's 2008-2009 budget.

The city, through its draft budget for the upcoming fiscal year, originally expected to see $836,000 from the state program. Now, the city expects to receive approximately $722,000 from the program.

City officials heard that the state's revenue-sharing distributions would be down approximately $2.2 million due to drops in sales tax revenues each of the last four quarters.

Councilman Nils Ribi said Sun Valley "took the biggest hit" in revenue losses. He noted that it appears Ketchum will also take a "big hit."

The discussion, which carried over into a special meeting on Wednesday afternoon, centered on where to cut $117,000 from the City's existing proposed budget.

Council members generally agreed to cut in half a previous commitment of approximately $104,000 to complete the road near the end of Sun Valley's new clubhouse.

But they did not agree where they should cut the last $65,000. Some wanted to take the money from the recreational services budget, while others only wanted to remove $20,000 from that section.

Councilman Dave Chase, after offering a number of alternative budget cuts, offered to give up a portion of his $12,000 city salary to make up the difference.

Mayor Willich said he would take the money if Chase wanted, but that he would not guarantee it would be spent on recreation.

"You can give up your salary, but you cannot make that trade," Willich said.

Ultimately, the council moved to cut the budget for recreational services in half, from $125,000 to $60,000. While no specific recreational organization was targeted, the Wood River YMCA was mentioned in passing several times.

The amended budget was set at a total of $7,095,838. The vote was initially a tie, broken by the Mayor voting in favor of it.

The City Council will convene once more to discuss the tentative budget on August 8, 2008. The official 2008-2009 fiscal year budget will be finalized on August 21, 2008.

City council discussion gets heated

The atmosphere inside the Sun Valley City Council's chambers was less than cordial during Tuesday and Wednesday's budget discussions. On Tuesday, at least six members of the community showed up to object to the decrease in funding for the SunValley/Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau. Last year's budget allocated $338,000 to Economic Development, Cultural and Information Services. Mayor Wayne Willich wanted to cut it down to $270,000. The Council compromised on $300,000. The Chamber is historically the main recipient of those funds.

After two of the six business owners spoke against the changes, Willich closed public comment. "I don't want to cut you off, but we have a lot of material on the chamber already."

Councilwoman Joan Lamb chimed in and said "I respectfully disagree." Citing low public attendance to city council meetings, Lamb wanted to give those who took the time to attend the opportunity to speak.

To which Willich said, "I've heard plenty about Chamber issues."

Disagreement between Willich and Lamb persisted throughout the two meetings. Several times Lamb objected to the proposed cuts on recreational spending and expressed her concern over the city's long term approach to the budget. "I cannot support the budget the way that it currently is," Lamb said.

Willich responded by saying, "I've heard that point about seven times now. I understand your point but I have a way to run the office."

On Wednesday, Lamb submitted a nine-point memo to the Sun Valley City Council explaining why she could not support the budget as being fiscally responsibly to the taxpayers of Sun Valley.

When asked by Willich to comment during the meeting, Lamb said, "You said you didn't want to hear my comments anymore, so I wrote them down."

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