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1/3/2013 2:15:00 PM
City adopts $24 million conservative 2013 budget
Vince Lovato

Bloated by almost $1.2 million in law enforcement costs and part of a $10 million wastewater treatment system upgrade, Chelan city council members unanimously passed a $24 million budget for 2013 on Dec. 13.

Though the 2013 budget is about $8 million more than 2011's, it is $4 million less that 2012's and most of the difference comes from the maintenance and operations projects.

"Twenty-four million kind of a sounds like a huge amount of money," said city Finance Director Cheryl Grant. "But if you can pull out something like $6.7 million for the sewer project our debt redemption is $1.2 million."

The budget is expected to be well in the black and leave the city with plenty of funds for future projects.

"The city council and staff have put together a pretty conservative budget and we've always budgeted like that," Grant said. "We figure revenues close to what they were the previous year and our estimates are usually lower than what we realize by the end of the year. We've been fortunate we've had a build up of cash reserves and we're not losing any services. Lots of cities can't say that."

About 8 years ago the city had just $250,000 in reserves.
"That's built up in large part when the economy was moving along we got building permits and bed taxes," Grant said. "So the council at the time said they basically wanted to bank it, if you will."

Three budget issues of recent concern to the council are the future management costs of the golf course, the increase in law enforcement costs which includes the cost of sheriff's deputies, Rivercom dispatch and jail costs; and the parks department.

In September of 2009, council members reluctantly agreed to start paying Chelan County an extra $300,000 annually for the cost of deputies and another $95,000 annually for the cost of Rivercom dispatch services, which were previously not paid. The city also pays a fee for anyone arrested in the city who is incarcerated in the Chelan County Jail.

"I spoke with (County Prosecutor) Doug Shea about our jail expenses," said Mayor Bob Goedde. "Maybe he can figure out some optional sentencing instead of just putting them in jail."

Goedde said two recent incarcerations cost the city of Cashmere about $100,000 in unexpected fees.

After four years of declining revenues and rounds played, the council members are considering a change to managing the golf course in an attempt to make it a self-sustaining enterprise project, much like the city's sewer and water systems. The city will retain ownership of the course but might contract with a private management company
The course is now included as part of the recreation and parks department, which is facing its own challenges.

"We have a very large general parks system, some call it green space, that doesn't generate any revenue and that has to be subsidized through general fund and tourist dollars," Grant said. "And that can take money from the reserve fund. It's an issue we have to look at but we're nowhere close to being in jeopardy."

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