Friday, August 12, 2011

Sun Valley restores funding to some agencies

Tentative budget to have another hearing Tuesday

Express Staff Writer

With some reshuffling of priorities, the Sun Valley City Council ended a special meeting Tuesday with the same proposed budget figure for fiscal 2012 as was presented at the beginning of the day: $5,087,835.

"We have what's called a truly balanced budget as a tentative budget," Council President Dewayne Briscoe said early in the meeting. "No increased taxes, taking nothing from reserves and cutting nothing in services to the city. If people want, and organizations want, additional funding, it has to come from somewhere."

Pitches by external contracting agencies resulted in a boost to requested funding from levels that, at one point in budget talks, had dropped to zero. But an increase in one place had to be offset by a decrease elsewhere—unless, of course, revenue is increased.

The majority of council members supported several changes from the tentative budget's last draft: reducing Sun Valley Marketing Alliance's funding by $40,000, to $350,000; increasing funding to the Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department from zero to $20,000; increasing funding to Sustain Blaine from zero to $10,000.

Councilwoman Joan Lamb did not support Tuesday's version of the budget, which does not include taking the 3 percent increase in property taxes allowed under state law. Lamb maintained her previous stance that the increase is needed to adequately fund the city's operations and services.

Highlighting the differences of opinion, Briscoe asked Lamb to apologize for statements she made during a July meeting about the council's not taking the tax increase while pursuing a bond measure to pay for capital improvements.

"I think that comment crossed the line, for calling us basically dishonest," he said. "I would think an apology would be in order."

She declined to do so.

"I'm not going to apologize," she said. "I would ask you to respect my opinion. I really think we're badly misleading the citizenry."

Councilman Nils Ribi said the budget can be balanced without taking the property tax increase, which would amount to about $96,000 for the city next year.

"We can send a message to other taxing districts in this county ... that you can tighten your belt a little bit without compromising services, and you don't have to raise taxes," he said. "It can be done."

Lamb again countered that assertion, saying needed funds would have to come from somewhere, such as a proposed bond measure.

"You can frame your message however you want, but I don't believe that's the reality of what not taking that 3 percent is," she said. "We are going to use those additional funds, we are going to need them and use them one way or another because we have over $21 million in capital needs that we have to address."

She also questioned the city's reliance on local-option taxes to pay for city services.

"I'm not saying we're doing anything we shouldn't be doing," she said. But, "to the extent that more and more and more of that LOT is being used to support the city services, I think our LOT comes under risk of attack from the Legislature."

Ribi said the 3 percent increase wouldn't fund much of the needed capital improvements and, if it were taken, should be spent on operations.

Councilman Bob Youngman said Ketchum should collect more money through its local-option tax, suggesting that businesses and the city pay more into marketing.

"Nobody is going to see results from that if we don't have an engaged business community," he said. "We need for all parties to step up and contribute to the greater goal."

He supported decreasing the marketing alliance's funding to $390,000. The group's initial request from Sun Valley was $425,000.

The alliance requested $475,000 from Ketchum. Alliance board President Jake Peters said during a Ketchum City Council meeting last month that the group initially planned to ask for $450,000 but raised the request because funding from Sun Valley was likely to drop.

In Ketchum's tentative budget, the alliance's funding is $400,000.

"We have expectations of all the interested parties to play a bigger role, and that Sun Valley should not be playing as big a role as we have been," Youngman said.

Mayor Wayne Willich agreed.

"Our friends over at the city of Ketchum, they've got to do better," he said, "the business community and the public officials."

In one version of the tentative budget, the council reduced to zero funding for the Ketchum Parks and Recreation Department. Sun Valley contributes to that department because its residents use the facilities and services.

"Our citizens use those parks," Lamb said. "I think it's really not the right thing to do not to pay for what we are using and just expect somebody else to take care of it."

Willich said department representatives presented evidence to Sun Valley officials that its residents were using Ketchum parks.

"They came in and showed us who from Sun Valley was using their facilities," he said in an interview. "I'm glad we have at least $20,000 for Ketchum Parks and Recreation (in the budget)."

The next budget hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m., Tuesday, Aug. 16.

Rebecca Meany:

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