Discussions among Richland City Council members Tuesday were all about money -- whether to contribute money toward a proposed museum, how much to bring in to pay for new parks and how much the council can expect to budget for next year.
The 2012 budget was the easiest of those conversations, with newly retired Administrative Services Director Ron Musson making a final appearance before the council to show members a balanced $248.4 million budget.
The budget is 1.6 percent smaller than 2011's $252 million budget, which City Manager Cindy Johnson said was the product of hard work by department heads to find new ways to be efficient.
The $53.8 million general fund budget represents a 2.7 percent reduction from last year, Musson said. It leaves $5.7 million in total reserves.
The budget does not include an increase in property taxes.
The budget is scheduled for final approval Dec. 6.
Talk about park impact fees was a little more contentious, but mostly mirrored discussions in the past two weeks about how much to raise the fees, which are charged when new homes are built.
The fees are intended to pay for development of new parks in growing neighborhoods, and a 4-2 majority of the council thought the proposed increase from $683 per single-family home to $1,187, or a 74 percent increase, was equitable.
Mayor John Fox, Mayor Pro Tem Ed Revell, Councilman Bob Thompson and Councilwoman Sandra Kent voted in favor of the increase, which they said best reflected the cost of developing parks.
Councilman Phil Lemley and Councilwoman Sheila Sullivan voted no. Lemley argued the increase would make housing in Richland less affordable and would result in fewer homes being built in the city.
"I believe we should be very careful about increasing the cost of development in our city," Lemley said.
Councilman David Rose recused himself because he is building a new house that would be subject to the fee.
During a brief conference before the council meeting, council members were in consensus that the city should contribute some money toward a "building contingency fund" for the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, but disagreed about the amount.
Rose suggested the city kick in 50 percent of the sales tax money it collects from construction of the museum, but other members thought that percentage was too high.
The fund is designed to be sort of an insurance policy for the city in case the project can't be completed and the city has to take measures to restore the land in Columbia Park west to its natural state, as the city's lease with the Army Corps of Engineers requires.
The Richland Public Facilities District, the public agency overseeing the museum's development, is required to put $1 million into the fund.
No action on a possible contribution was taken Tuesday.