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Maple Valley City Council considers 2010 budget

The Maple Valley City Council began to wrestle with the 2010 preliminary budget Monday.

The financial picture presented by Finance Director Tony McCarthy and City Manager David Johnston was a mix of OK and worrisome.

Johnston pointed out Maple Valley was in better shape than neighboring cities. The city is not facing a daunting deficit or staff layoffs.

The city had a $220,000 deficit, which was principally addressed in the preliminary budget by cutting a vacant assistant city manager position, a change in sales tax transfers and some projections.

Johnston also recommends increasing utility tax by .75 percent, which according to McCarthy would fund new staff and city programs. The budget recommends hiring a patrol sergeant for the police department and adding two other staff positions.

The utility tax increase would raise $217,704. According to the city, Maple Valley has the lowest telephone utility tax and only one other city has a lower electric and natural gas rate.

Councilman Noel Gerken raised the point he supported raising the property tax to the maximum (1 percent limit factor) rather than the utility tax.

“The utility tax goes on in perpetuity,” Gerken said. “Property tax is one year.”

To raise the property tax to the maximum the Council would pass a resolution finding a substantial need with a vote of five members.

According to McCarthy the maximum increase in property tax would bring in $57,297.

In the budget document prepared by Johnston and McCarthy it is stated three factors are causing a drop in revenues in the general fund: the general economy, “revenue leakage” or residents spending money outside of the community and the city’s investment incomes are earning less.

Permits for single family homes for the year are at 72 and the projection was 100. The city had been averaging 250 each year prior to the recession.

The projection for single family residences in 2010 is 50. In 2011 the projection is 100 and 150 in 2012.

The document noted the Maple Ridge Highlands annexation and the “scheduled opening of a Fred Meyer store by the end of 2010” helped the city “avoid difficult budget actions.”

The Council will continue to consider the budget, which must be passed by the end of the year.

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