Pasco faces some cuts at budget talks

PASCO -- Pasco's budget writer describes the proposed 2011 budget as a "hold the line" budget.

City Manager Gary Crutchfield will discuss the $30.4 million operating budget with city council members today at 6 p.m.

Crutchfield said the budget is only about $300,000 more than the city budgeted for 2010. He said some cuts are proposed but he isn't asking the council to increase the city's property tax levy rate.

With an estimated $100 million worth of new construction that expanded the city's tax base, Crutchfield said the tax rate likely will be less in 2011 than the current $2 per $1,000 of assessed value.

The proposed budget would eliminate a crime prevention specialist position in the police department that has been vacant for about two years, Crutchfield said. Eliminating it would save about $60,000.

"We'd like to have it filled, but we can live without it," he said.

Even with cutting the position, the cost of police department salaries will be about $300,000 higher, Crutchfield said. The city and police union recently agreed on a 2008-10 contract.

The city is starting negotiations with the police and fire unions that would go into effect starting in 2011, Crutchfield said.

While the proposed budget includes step increases and merit pay for employees, Crutchfield said it doesn't include a cost of living adjustment. Cost of living decreased in 2009 and increased less than 1 percent this year.

The city also will be spending $150,000 less in 2011 on library services from Mid-Columbia Libraries because the city and library district negotiated a new contract earlier this year.

The budget also assumes reorganization of the city's administrative and community services department, eliminating a vacant deputy clerk position and saving about $30,000, Crutchfield said. And reducing custodial service to three days a week instead of five would save about $20,000, he said.

The proposed budget would use $172,000 of the city's reserves to bridge the gap between expenses and revenues if needed, Crutchfield said.

The city received more revenue this year than expected, and so won't need to use the full $700,000 from reserves that was budgeted to be spent in 2010, he said.

Sales tax revenue came in $400,000 to $500,000 higher than expected this year, Crutchfield said. The city will receive about $8.1 million in sales taxes this year.

Crutchfield said the city expects sales tax revenue to grow about 1 percent next year, to $8.2 million. That's anticipating the city will have 350 to 400 new single-family homes, he said. If fewer new homes are built, sales tax revenue could be less.