Tonasket weighs cuts to city budget

Crossing light

The city has gotten positive review on the new crossing light recently installed at the corner of Second and Whitcomb, at the North Valley Hospital. The solar-powered, push-button lights was installed after the city received funding for the project from the Federal Highway Administration through the Washington State Department of Transportation. Brent Baker/staff photo

TONASKET – Unlike some other government entities, the City of Tonasket can’t spend millions of dollars more than it collects in revenues. So, faced with rising costs and sinking tax collections, the Tonasket City Council is facing the reality of slashing its budget while still trying to provide city services.

That was the discussion that took place at the Tuesday, Nov. 27, council meeting, when the council set the guidelines for City Clerk Alice Attwood to put together the 2013 budget.

Savings will come primarily from a reduction in on-call hours paid to the Tonasket Police (a 14 percent cut), the temporary elimination of a parks position (13 percent cut) and a 26 percent cut from finance.

The budget would include a 1.7 percent Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for city employees but would forgo a hoped-for 3 percent raise, and would retain the same level of health care coverage during the upcoming year.

“It (the budget) will be significantly less this year than it was last year,” said council member Scott Olson, who served on the finance committee with council member Jill Vugteveen. “We are looking at places we can cut. But at the same time, after our discussions last year the 1.7% COLA … we needed to keep the wages equal, so we don’t end up in a hole (as far as competitive pay goes) again.”

“We’re not assuming that the departments haven’t been responsible,” Vugteveen said. “We just found some areas that we can fine tune.

“The police department is a tough one because you have certain special situations that need some double coverage there, and that kind of stuck out to us. That’s going to be difficult to control based on the circumstances that arrive.”

Council member Jean Ramsey said she felt that rising health care costs needed to be addressed.

“Chances are (revenues) not going to get much better any time quick,” Ramsey said. “When does health care and the discussion on that come in? Because we can’t continue to raise rates to keep up with that.”

Insurance rates are projected to rise $35 per person for the 11 city employees.

Barring unforeseen issues, the council will vote on the city budget at its Dec. 11 meeting.

Danison researches pool options

City Planner Kurt Danison (Highlands Associates), during his report to the council, said that he had done some research and made some contacts that could prove useful in getting a new local swimming pool built.

“It’s something I have a hard time letting go of,” Danison said. “There are people in the community that are interested, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of synergy.”

Danison said he knew of at least one area family that was willing to donate a significant amount of money to the project and said that one option to manage funding was to look into a community foundation such as the Community Foundation of North Central Washington in Wenatchee.

He also had spoken to representatives of Pool World of Spokane, which he said built a $1.5 million, 25-meter, five-lane pool in Davenport. As a result, he said he would be receiving “guesstimates” for several options of pool design.

“These would only be for the pool, and not for any landscaping or building,” Danison said. “It’s something that could be used to set fundraising targets.”

He also said, as had been brought up at several city council meetings over the summer, that the cost of any sort of indoor pool would be prohibitive.

“It would be exponentially worse (as far as cost),” Danison said. “It’s more expensive to design, to build and to maintain. We’re too far north to be able to use an air-supported dome (that might extend the pool use season). What I’m thinking of (as workable) is a five-lane, 25-meter pool.”

In addition to the community’s desire to see a new pool built, the council received notice from the Recreation Conservation District.

To comply with the original project agreement that provided funding for the now-condemned pool to be built, the amended RCO agreement calls for “up to five years for the city to plan and raise funds for a renovation or replacement of the facility.”

The City is to keep the RCO informed of its progress.

Also…

The council moved its Tuesday, Jan. 8, meeting to Wednesday, Jan. 9. That meeting will also include a public hearing regarding the proposed Bonaparte Creek/Mill Drive annexation, which could receive its final approval from the council following.

Ramsey also reported that feedback on the new crossing light at the intersection of Whitcomb and

Also, the council approved a floating holiday, Monday, Dec. 24, for city staff.

The Tonasket City Council will next meet on Tuesday, Dec. 11, in the council chambers at the Tonasket City Hall.

About Brent Baker

Brent is a reporter for the Gazette-Tribune. Prior to working at the G-T, he was the sports editor for Sunrise Publishing from 2000-2005 in Michigan. He subsequently owned and operated Buckland Media, a high school sports website, in Michigan until 2010. He and his wife Kim, who have an adult son, moved to Tonasket in 2010. Brent started work at the G-T in 2011.

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