On the right track

Published 7:26 pm Thursday, June 7, 2012

Washington’s City Council is expected to adopt the budget for the 2012-2013 fiscal year when it meets Monday.

This proposed budget, $62.2 million overall, is worthy of the council’s approval. The recommended spending plan is one of the better ones to come from a council — and city staff — in a number of years. The way the current council deliberated on the budget is commendable. This year, the council did more with the budget in fewer workshops than in years past. That occurred because City Manager Josh Kay, Chief Financial Officer Matt Rauschenbach, city department heads and other city staff worked hard to cobble a budget on the lines of what the City Council wanted.

There will be some who say the proposed budget has its flaws. What budget doesn’t have its flaws?

When the council votes on the proposed budget, that vote may not be unanimous, but there is no doubt that the city’s budget-making process continues to improve. Even Councilman Doug Mercer is impressed with how that process has gone this budget season. In the past, he’s voted against budgets because he believed they did not realistically anticipate revenues and curtail expenses.

“There are two or three things I like. First of all, it is more realistic, I believe, in term of anticipated revenues than any budget I’ve looked at in the past five years,” he said in April after the proposed budget was unveiled. “Secondly, it does not draw on fund balance, except in one case, I think it is. It definitely achieved a goal there. It reduces the total amount of monies that we are going to borrow, although we’re still borrowing a substantial amount of money, it’s reduced from what it has been in prior years. It also reduces the transfer from the electric fund into the general fund, which I hope, ultimately, is going to result in a reduction in the electric rates.”

The proposed budget does reduce residential electric rates by 1 percent, effective July 1.

The proposed budget is about $3 million less than the current budget.

The proposed budget’s transfer of revenue from the electric fund to the general fund is less than this fiscal year’s transfer, declining from $973,150 this fiscal year to $846,121 in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

The proposed budget doesn’t raise the current property-tax rate.

When it comes to recent city budgets, this proposed budget is more realistic than them.

Now that the City Council appears to be on the right track when it comes to budget, let’s hope nothing happens to derail the council from that track.