City of Pasco may add 9 new positions

Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldNovember 12, 2013 

The city of Pasco may add nine new positions next year.

City officials went over the proposed 2014 budget at the council's workshop meeting Tuesday.

City Manager Gary Crutchfield said the city uses fairly conservative revenue estimates, which help keep Pasco from having to worry about layoffs.

"We've been blessed here in the Tri-Cities with an economy that is fairly resilient and done much better than the rest of the country the last four or five years," he said.

The city is expanding services in three areas, two of which are by choice and the other required by the state Department of Ecology, Crutchfield said.

The city has grown large enough that it is now required to take over licensing for pre-treatment of industrial discharge into the sewer system. This requirement requires two new people. The positions are expected to add $200,000 to the yearly budget, as well as a one-time $150,000 base fee.

Permit revenue will cover about half the annual costs, but a sewer rate increase also is expected.

Three new people are being added to put in new fire hydrants and repair existing hydrants.

"There is a higher than acceptable risk that you may go to a hydrant during a fire and find out it doesn't work properly," Crutchfield said. "That's not the time to find out."

The hydrant program, which will cost $300,000 a year, is part of the reason Pasco will ask for its first water rate increase since 2010, though Crutchfield wasn't sure how large the rate hike will be.

The city also plans to add two street workers to handle sidewalk repairs. Crutchfield said this will cost $250,000 a year and allow the city to repair all its sidewalks within four years. He expects the new people to cost half that amount that contracting out the work would. The $250,000 annual cost will be paid with money reallocated from the capital improvement, local improvement district guarantee and street funds.

A second chief groundsman is being added into the proposed budget. Crutchfield said the last groundsman was added in 2007, and since then the city has added 162 acres of parks and other corridors, 12,000 sprinklers and nearly four miles of landscaped sidewalks.

A geographic systems administrator also will be added to oversee implementing and operating an electronic mapping database system. The city is looking to prevent duplication of maps from different departments.

The fire department will see its budget increase to $5.1 million from $4.4 million largely due to salary and benefit increases, Chief Bob Gear said.

The police budget also is seeing an increase for the same reason. Chief Bob Metzger asked for a $12.3 million budget, up from $12.1 million in 2013.

Crutchfield recommended a property tax rate of $1.95 per $1,000 of property value.

The budget shows that Pasco is able to harness its growth so it can offer more services, Mayor Matt Watkins told the Herald. He said the city has seen its tax rate decrease for 10 consecutive years.

"This is one year in a decade-long effort by staff and council to work increasingly effectively as a growing city," he said.

Watkins was proud of city statistics that show Pasco decreasing its bonded debt to a projected $3.2 million in 2014, down from $15.3 million in 2004. The decrease in debt came while the city grew in size from 40,000 people to 65,000 people.

A public hearing on the tax rate is planned for Monday's meeting. The council will have a hearing on the budget in December and vote on it two weeks later.

-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; gfolsom@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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