Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sun Valley keeps purse strings tight

County dispatch, Sustain Blaine funding may be slashed


By REBECCA MEANY
Express Staff Writer

Wayne Willich

Despite presenting the Sun Valley City Council with detailed information supporting their financial needs, many agencies that requested funds for fiscal year 2012 may have to find a way to get by with less.

Mayor Wayne Willich and the City Council combed through details of the proposed budget during a special work session on June 21.

"What our philosophy here has been is to very, very conservatively project the income side, the revenue side, because revenue except for property taxes has some volatility to it," Willich said. "That's been successful for the last couple of years. We've also managed the cost side to keep the cost side down. In this budget I would like to do the same kind of thing."

While preliminary budget figures are being worked out, city residents can expect the 2012 budget to be similar to this year's.

"Our operating expenditures are about what our annual operating revenues are," City Administrator Sharon Hammer said in an interview. "It's almost flat, especially when you adjust for inflation. It's stable, and that's not bad."

During the meeting, Councilman Nils Ribi spoke against the city's taking the 3 percent property tax increase allowed by state law. The revenue gained by that extra 3 percent would be about $76,000—about $25 per parcel.

"I think we can forgo it this year," he said. "It's time to make some serious cuts."

He suggested cuts in funding for the Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department, community housing and the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance.

"Ketchum needs to step up in a much bigger way, and their proportion needs to be much greater than ours," he said.

Councilwoman Joan Lamb cautioned against bypassing the permitted tax increase.

"I think that's not responsible government on our part," she said. "If you give up that increase in any one year, you then give up the multiplier of that increase. So, every year thereafter. And I just feel that is absolutely the wrong thing for us to be doing. We cannot afford to do that."

Among those agencies that could be on the city's chopping block is Sustain Blaine, a countywide economic development organization that asked Sun Valley for $10,000. The mayor suggested allocating $8,000, but the council leaned toward a much lower figure—zero.

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"I've been very disappointed in the outcome of it," Ribi said. "I think that we're missing the boat on what true economic development is supposed to be about and what the goal is."

Though the city has not received a budget request from the county for consolidated emergency communications services, last year's contract was for $117,280.

"I'd like to get started on a phased program where our dollar amount is being reduced," Willich said in an interview.

In his initial budget, Willich proposed $108,000, with the idea that the figure would drop 10 percent each fiscal year for five years. The council at last week's meeting, however, reduced the tentative number to $86,000.

"I can go along with it now because we haven't been sent a bill. We haven't been sent a contract (from the county)," Councilman Dewayne Briscoe said during the meeting. "But by (next month) we will have been sent a contract, and we will have been billed for a certain amount. And so that's when the hard decision is going to have to be made as to what we do."

Fly Sun Valley Alliance—which promotes air service to the valley—requested $25,000 from the city. The proposed amount in the draft budget is $10,000.

Sun Valley Marketing Alliance—which promotes business and tourism in the Sun Valley-Ketchum area—asked for $425,000. It may get $350,000.

"Once again, the council was in a slashing mood," Willich said in an interview. "Marketing and promotion of our business, we have to work the revenue side of the equation. They (the council) don't agree with me."

Blaine County Housing Authority—which works to provide affordable housing in the valley—sought $10,740 but may see only $7,265.

Mountain Rides Transportation Authority—which provides public bus service in the valley—asked for $315,000. The proposed amount is $310,000.

"You can gut the budget," Willich said, "but there are some basics ... that you simply have to provide to have a viable city."

The council has scheduled a meeting for Tuesday, July 12, to review and possibly approve a tentative budget, and will hold a public hearing on the matter on Tuesday, Aug. 2.

Rebecca Meany: rmeany@mtexpress.com




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