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Council whittles away at proposed city budget

By Staff
DWOW funding cut,
Beebe Park project
allocated more money
By MIKE VOSS
Contributing Editor
Washington’s City Council gives and takes away when it comes to working on the proposed 2008-2009 budget for the city.
During a budget work session Monday, the council decreased proposed funds for Downtown Washington on the Waterfront from $60,000 to $15,000, with that $15,000 to be used for design work leading to improvements to the alley adjacent to the Mecca. In its current budget, the city allocated $100,000 to DWOW.
Some people have criticized continued funding of DWOW by the city, saying the nonprofit organization has not lived up to its mission of renewing downtown Washington’s economy and developing a revitalization strategy to accomplish that goal. DWOW supporters have said the organization, now in its fourth year, needs more time to continue to build a foundation upon which to grow.
To complete the Beebe Memorial Park project started several years ago, the council allocated $40,000 for that project in the proposed budget, which is expected to be adopted on or before June 30. The original allocation in the proposed budget was $25,000, but council members said they want to complete that project during the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.
The city already has $19,000 in hand for the project. The final major component of the project is construction of a multipurpose shelter at the park.
Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Mercer told the council and mayor he had developed a list of “suggestions” and “modifications” that would cut the proposed budget for the general fund, which pays for day-to-day operations of city government, by $600,000. The proposed general-fund budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, is at $15,168,755. The current general-fund budget is at $15.7 million.
Mayor Judy Meier Jennette and council members plan to review Mercer’s list and consider his suggestions and modifications as they continue budget deliberations this month.
Mercer’s list includes delaying the hiring of an architect to design a new police center ($150,000) to delaying the installation of fiber optics for a project in the city’s information services division ($55,075) to not buying new telephones ($250).
Washington Electric Utilities Director Keith Hardt told the council the city has been told to expect an increase in the wholesale power rate it pays to buy electricity to increase from 5 percent to 12 percent as of October.
Council members said they will wait until after the power agency’s rate committee determines the increase in the wholesale power rate before deciding what to do with the city’s existing retail rates for residential and commercial power customers.
The council’s next budget work session is set for 4:30 p.m. June 23. The council’s next regular meeting is at 4:30 p.m. Monday.