Friday, July 19, 2013

Bellevue reduces budget by 7 percent

Employee retirement benefits increase

Express Staff Writer

    The Bellevue City Council on Monday approved a budget of $3,188,091 for fiscal 2014, $248,273 less than the city spent last year, marking a drop of 7 percent.
    The city will begin a five-year purchase of a new police vehicle, but most city department budgets will remain flat.
    The Planning and Zoning Department budget will be boosted by $19,695 due primarily to an increase in building permit applications. Of that increase, $11,000 will be for contract labor for building inspections.
    “I want to be optimistic. I want to hope that things are getting better,” Planning Director Craig Eckles said in an interview.
    The Fire Department budget was increased by almost $40,000, to $186,299, due to a penciling in of expected grants for new equipment. But if the grants do not materialize, the money will not be spent.
    A steep drop in funding for the Street Department is due to the city’s having been passed over for a $1 million federal grant to rebuild portions of Broadford Road. As a result, the city did not have to come up with $371,148 in matching funds for the project.
    “These funds did not come through and will not come through until 2015,” City Clerk Dee Barton said in an interview.
    The city will substantially increase employee retirement benefits. The City Council voted to increase the employee insurance plan deductible from $250 per month to $1,500, to help pay $50,456 for entry into the PERSI state retirement plan.
    “Bellevue is the last city in the state to be under the public employee retirement system,” Eckles said.
    Last year the city contributed 2 percent to employees’ tax-deferred retirement accounts. In 2014 that percentage could rise as high as 17 percent, when added to employees’ voluntary contributions.
    “It’s a huge consideration for employees to stay on,” Eckles said.
    A final budget hearing will take place Aug. 26 at 6 p.m. at City Hall.        

Tony Evans:

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