Along with the task of hauling away leaves this autumn, the city of Millwood is addressing various branches of next year’s municipal budget.
At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Finance Director Debbie Matkin presented an overview of the 2012 financial gameplan, including the news that revenues were projected to fall short of expenditures by around $10,000 – $782,990 to $792,630. City Clerk Tom Richardson said that the deficit can be attributed to a decrease in property-tax returns as well as a drop in the money the city collects from a natural gas tax.
“We’re trying to be as efficient as possible without raising taxes,” Richardson said. “But we are seeing a reduction in tax revenue.”
The city attempted to address some of the shortfall in August by installing a real estate excise tax, a toll that applies to any kind of real estate (generally representing between .25 to .50 of each property transaction) and usually paid by the seller. Millwood had been one of fewer than a dozen cities in the state to not have a REET in place.
Richardson said the disbursement from the tax begins 60 days from approval by City Council, meaning the first revenue arrived at City Hall in mid-October. City officials speculated earlier this year that the new tax would bring in around $12,000 annually.
Millwood, a town of just over 1,700 residents, contracts with the Spokane Valley Fire Department, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane County Library District. The city does run its own water and sewer utility and last, year, raised rates for the first time since the mid-1990s.
When the rate hikes were being discussed during last year’s budget talks, Richardson said the adjustments would be a way of “keeping up with costs that have been going up in other areas like treatment and staffing.” The City Council approved an increase of $5.40 to the monthly water bill (for a total of $35.40) and a change of $2.65 to the monthly sewer bill (to $17.35). The water rate had last been increased in 1995 while the sewer rate had remained constant since 1993.
On Tuesday, Matkin gave an update on a review currently underway of the municipal water department that could result in another rate hike. Richardson said later that the study is expected to be completed sometime “before the irrigation season starts next year.” Richardson said the findings would likely result in some sort of rate increase proposal.
Water overage charges in the city have not increased since 1981.
“Water has some pretty big shortages in water and have talked about raising rates,” Matkin said.
Mayor Dan Mork discussed the possibility of scheduling a special meeting to discuss the 2012 budget on Monday night, although no date or time was finalized. The second public hearing for the budget is set for the Dec. 5 council meeting. The city has until Dec. 31 to approve next year’s budget.
In other council news:
- City Council and staff heard a report from Jaime Short with the Department of Ecology concerning the ongoing update of the city’s Shoreline Management Plan. Short noted that all 39 counties and just under 240 jurisdictions in Washington are part of the overhaul, brought about by a revision to the state law in 2003. Short applauded the city for its efforts “in involving the community in the process.”
- Doug Stumbough, a regional branch manager with the Spokane County Library District provided an update on library services, budget status and future goals. He described an expansion project slated for the Argonne branch, Millwood’s local library, that would add 2,000 square feet to the current building, including a community meeting room and study spaces. SCLD purchased property to the east of the branch this year and has included the renovation in the second tier of a 20-year capital facilities master plan. The cost estimate for the upgrade (in 2010 dollars) was $983,000. Stumbough said there is not currently a date set for the $50.8 million construction bond to appear on the ballot.
- City Council was briefed on a notice from the Spokane County Animal Protection Service for a contract renewal that would run the city around $2,000 less than last year’s $7,000 cost.