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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday, July 16, 2004


Bellevue faces budget deficit

Levy rate increase request put on backburner

Express Staff Writer

The Bellevue City Council convened at a special meeting Tuesday, July 13, for preliminary consideration of the 2005 city budget. The meeting elicited serious consternation over the city’s lack of funds.

Nevertheless, the council apparently made an informal decision after the meeting not to schedule another special election to request a levy rate increase.

The preliminary draft of the city budget—which the council will revisit at the Thursday, July 22, city council meeting—proposes $826,638.97 in general fund expenses. The general fund includes all city services, except sewer and water funds. The proposed budget estimates a balanced water fund of $374,000 and a balanced sewer fund of $395,204.

Although the water and sewer funds are balanced, balancing the general fund appears to be grim.

The drafted budget estimates the 2005 general revenues to be $14,234 shy of the projected expenses.

The deficit leaves the city facing a difficult decision—operate under a deficit, borrow from savings or cut city services.

According to Mayor John Barton, the drafted budget is a "status quo budget with the addition of another administrative person."

The budget provides for a full time administrative position to assist the city clerk. The council also addressed the need to pay the Bellevue fire chief a salary.

In light of financial pressures, the council began deliberations over possible solutions, which will direct policy in the future.

During the preliminary discussions, Councilperson Tammy Schofield suggested a pay cut for the council.

"If we cut our monthly salary, we would save $9,600," Shofield said. According to the city, council members are currently paid a minimal $200 a month and the mayor receives $400 a month.

The remark prompted further discussion of potential cut backs in city services.

"Is it appropriate to fund the library?" Councilman Jon Wilkes asked his colleagues.

"Our direction is to keep the city going," Wilkes continued. "Our equipment is falling to pieces and the administration is strapped."

"We told people if the levy didn’t pass this might be the circumstance," responded Councilwoman Vivian Ivie to the proposed library closure.

Ivie was referring to the proposed levy rate increase request that failed to pass in a special election held in May. The proposed property tax increase would have helped to fund municipal services by about $277,000.

The council briefly addressed the need to propose the levy again at a November special election. Although a show of hands at the meeting supported the matter, Schofield said further discussion after the meeting led to a change of direction.

"We felt it was not in our best interest to go for a special election in November," Schofield said.

However, Schofield said the council might decide to call a special election in May.

The City Council will continue to consider the drafted budget at the Thursday, July 22, city council meeting. A public hearing for the final proposed budget is slated for Aug. 26.


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