Few changes in proposed 2013-14 City of MLT budget

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By Doug Petrowski

With projected revenue into city coffers flat, the proposed 2013-14 biennial budget for the City of Mountlake Terrace outlined to councilmembers Monday night changes little from the budgets of previous years.

City Manager John Caulfield presented the projected two-year budget plan to the council at its regular meeting on Oct. 1. The council will continue to be given budget specifics over the next six weeks, then vote to approve or reject the plan at its Nov. 19 meeting.

“It is a balanced budget that does not include any cuts or deduction in services, and will continue to do so, so long as the city continues to practice the financial discipline of staying within our means,” Caulfield said.

The proposed budget calls for combined operating, utility and capital spending of $49.1 million in 2013 and $48 million in 2014.

While general government revenues are projected to drop approximately $50,000 (less than .2 percent) in 2013 from this year, they are expected to rebound in 2014, up approximately $500,000 (more than 2.5 percent). General operating expenditures are projected to follow the revenue trends, with spending to drop in 2013 to $23.9 million from 2012’s $24.4 million, then bounce up to $24.1 million in 2014.

The city is projected to keep its contingency reserves at current levels, while dipping into its designated reserves to meet some expenses. One designated reserve for equipment replacement, for example, is expected to drop from its current balance of $1,242,779 to $684,251 in 2014.

“The city’s reserves are very strong with financial resources set aside to accommodate unexpected operational changes, legislative impacts or other economic events effecting the city’s operations,” Caulfield said.

Capital improvements are projected to continue throughout the city, with the budget calling for $7.5 million in spending during 2013 for various projects. Much of the capital improvement dollars come from state and federal grants won by the city.

The 2014 capital budget is just $4.1 million, but has some holes in it city officials are hoping to fill in the future. “The 2014 budget does not include a $25 million capital bond to build a new civic center that will be considered by voters in April 2013,” Caulfield said. “Likewise, it does not include a funding source to continue renting here (interim City Hall in the Redstone Building, 6100-219th St. SW).”

Coming up with the funds to pay rent starting in 2014 on current space utilized for city offices is just one challenge Caulfield outlined for the city over the next two years. He also pointed to the current general economic conditions of the region, a below average collection of property and sales taxes for the city, a reliance on gambling taxes, potential state legislative changes, rising employee health care and pension costs, a growing demand for city services and the aging of city buildings and infrastructure as hurdles that may need to be overcome in the near future.

The entire City of Mountlake Terrace 2013-2014 Proposed Biennial Budget Message presentation can be viewed here.

The City Council will next hear from individual city departments concerning budget issues at work/study sessions scheduled for Oct. 18 and 25. They will then review the biennial budget document and a proposed property tax ordinance on Nov. 1 before holding a public hearing on the two proposals Nov. 5. More reviews are possible on Nov. 15 before a final vote on the biennial budget, the property tax ordinance and a Transportation Improvement Program ordinance on Nov. 19. All meetings are open to the public and will be held in council chambers at interim City Hall.

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