Kennewick residents might save on property levies

Kennewick residents might end up paying 2 cents less for their property levy rate for 2011-12, or about $2 less annually for the owner of a $100,000 home.

City council members learned Tuesday that a bump in assessments for the city this year is nudging the levy rate down from $2.17 to $2.15 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The drop, which continues a 10-year trend in Kennewick, is the result of continued growth in the city, said Dan Legard, Kennewick's finance manager. The city's assessed value increased by $187 million in the past year, about half of that as new construction, reaching a new high of $4.87 billion.

But while having more property wealth to tax might be good for some residents, it doesn't mean the city is sitting pretty financially.

The council is looking at approving an austere biennial budget next week. The $232.6 million spending plan is 11 percent smaller than the 2009-10 budget, noted Marie Mosley, Kennewick interim city manager and director of support services.

Most of the cuts are in capital improvement projects, but the new budget also relies on keeping 26 positions eliminated or unfilled during the next two years.

The proposed budget has some challenges, too. They include uncertainties about revenue projects, expected increases in contract costs such as jail and labor union negotiations, and the unknown outcome of the Columbia Park lawsuit appeal that could cost several million dollars.

But Mosley said the biggest financial unknown for 2011-12 is what will happen with the state budget.

"It depends on the Legislature. One of the biggest issues is unfunded mandates and fees and charges that the state will require," she said.

The council is expected to formally adopt the budget and set the levy rate at its meeting Nov. 16.