Kennewick City Council approves new operating budget

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldNovember 21, 2012 

Kennewick's police force will gain three more officers next year to help in the city's fight against gang activity.

The Kennewick City Council unanimously approved its $95.7 million 2013-14 operating budget Tuesday.

The council also unanimously approved setting the city's property tax levy rate at $2.12 per $1,000 of assessed value, which will provide funding for the three new police officers.

Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg told the Herald that the new positions are needed so police can maintain current service levels for the city's growing population.

Three more patrol officers would mean the police department no longer would have to pull from the criminal-apprehension team, which focuses on criminal gang activity, for regular city patrols. Those positions will cost about $650,400 for two years.

That will be paid for by maintaining the city's current levy rate in 2013. Maintaining that rate will increase the amount of property tax revenue the city can collect.

Some of that increased revenue would come from the 1 percent increase in total property tax revenue collected as allowed by state law, as well as using $125,000 of banked levy capacity that was saved during years when the council declined the 1 percent increase.

The city hopes to eventually continue paying for the new officers using a criminal justice sales tax, if Benton County voters approve one. The property tax revenue then would be used for three fire captains to staff a new fire station that is being considered by a task force.

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