Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hailey budget boosts general fund

City services and staff raises trump funding for nonprofits

Express Staff Writer

    The Hailey City Council on Monday set a proposed budget for fiscal year 2014 of just over $10,127,000, down about $1 million from the 2013 budget, which had about $1 million in expenses factored in for the redevelopment of Woodside Boulevard.    
    General fund expenses are set to increase $154,000 in 2014. Mayor Fritz Haemmerle said this spending would be absorbed by city departments that have since 2008 seen “extreme [spending] discipline.”
    Haemmerle said “this is not the year” to start giving away money to nonprofit organizations, warning the council that there is “competition” in the future for public funds, including an expected tax levy from Blaine County to fund road improvements and money for a bio-solids facility at the city’s Woodside wastewater treatment facility.
    “Government has gotten away from paying for fundamental services,” he said.
    About $65,000 of the general fund increase are set to be spent on pay raises for lower-level city employees, $11,000 for the Streets Department, $3,000 in additional funding for Mountain Rides public transportation (bringing the city’s total proceeds to $68,000) and $84,000 dedicated to projected increases in III-A self-insurance pool premiums.
    Funding for the Hailey Chamber of Commerce would remain the same as last year at $61,000.
    Following an impassioned presentation by Blaine County Housing Authority Executive Director David Patrie on Monday, the council voted not to drop about $3,000 in bookkeeping services for the agency.
    Haemmerle said the staff salary increases were necessary because none have been given for five years.
    “The city is losing staff members to other cities and to homeowners associations,” Haemmerle said.
    City Administrator Heather Dawson said the city had 70 employees in 2008, compared to only 50 today.
    A prolonged discussion ensued Monday that pitted Councilwomen Martha Burke against the rest of the council over the possibility of earmarking several thousand dollars of expected LOT revenue for nonprofits.        “We have an obligation to increase the business community and fulfill the needs of those that are here,” Burke said.
    She advised dedicating a total of about $7,000 to Fly Sun Valley Alliance, Sustain Blaine and the Hailey Chamber of Commerce, saying the “token amount” would show those organizations that Hailey leaders support their efforts to sustain economic development.
    The city provides no funding at all to Fly Sun Valley Alliance or Sustain Blaine.
    “Saying ‘no’ one more year sends a bad message,” Burke said. “What if air service went away and the LOT with it? How would we balance our budget then?”
    Councilwoman Carol Brown replied, “I struggle with [giving to] the Fly Sun Valley Alliance.”
    Councilman Don Keirn, who sits on the Sustain Blaine board, said he would like to see the city give more to Sustain Blaine, but would not agree to earmarking money the city does not yet have.
    “My mother-in-law told me that the road to hell is paved with good intentions,” Keirn said.         The budget—which at this stage can have line-item adjustments but cannot be increased—is scheduled for final review and approval by the City Council on Aug. 19.
In other Hailey news:    
l An electronic messaging sign has been posted at the city’s skate park to gather public comment on whether such signs should be allowed at the gateway to the town and at public schools. A public hearing on the issue will be held on Aug. 19 at City Hall.

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