Connell's budget includes first professional fire chief

Connell will have its first professional fire chief under the city's proposed $5.5 million budget for 2011.

The new fire chief would be funded by a contract with the state Department of Corrections to provide fire protection to Coyote Ridge Corrections Center, said Steve Taylor, Connell city administrator.

He said the paid position is needed to keep up with city growth and accommodate the needs of the corrections center.

The city will receive about $80,000 from the contract, and salary and benefits will cost about $83,000, Taylor said. He said the hiring process for the position will begin soon.

Connell's total resources for 2011, including savings, are expected to be about $9.4 million, Taylor said. That includes about $4.2 million in savings being carried over from this year.

In 2010, the city budgeted to spend about $6.7 million, but some of that was for Department of Corrections-funded water and sewer system improvements, Taylor said.

Costs have continued to increase faster than city revenue, Taylor said. He said last year the city council used reserves, cut expenses and raised taxes to balance the 2010 budget. But he said it now looks like the city won't need to use reserves this year.

The 2011 preliminary budget would cut more expenses and use about $364,000 in reserves but does not propose tax increases, Taylor said. The city anticipates ending 2011 with about $3.9 million in carryover.

Taylor said the city has been trying to find ways to be more efficient. For example, it recently hired Franklin County to handle its municipal court cases, and expects to save about $35,000 with the switch.

The city's general fund budget, which pays for services such as fire, police, administrative staff and building and planning, is anticipated to be $1.9 million in 2011.

The preliminary budget eliminates a police officer position that was vacant. Taylor said the city will then have five police officers and the police chief, but still will be able to provide service 24 hours a day and double coverage on weekends.

Connell still is negotiating with the Department of Corrections for impact money to cover costs to the city from the prison expansion, including police service, utilities expansion and roads, Taylor said. City officials will lobby the state Legislature for that money next year.

Taylor said one challenge is to find a funding source for parks and streets.

The city has been using general fund money to support those services and will likely use about $110,000 for streets in 2011.

The city council will hold public hearings on the budget Nov. 3 and Nov. 15, and likely will vote on the budget Nov. 15 or Dec. 1.