COEUR d’ALENE — The Coeur d’Alene City Council gave final approval to a budget this week that calls for no property tax increases while improving services over the next fiscal year, and stuffing away money in its rainy day fund.
The $89.5 million city budget — it’s proposed financial plan for the 2017-18 fiscal year — is lower than last year’s budget by about $5.7 million.
“It’s a nice budget,” council member Dan Gookin said. “The mayor worked really hard to keep that down.”
The lower budget amount is a reflection of negotiation and scrutinization, and although it calls for adding 11 employees — including four full-time positions and seven part-time positions spread across several departments — it has kept costs in check, Gookin said.
“We had numerous requests,” he said. “Almost every department wanted new people.”
It also reflects a reduction in expenditures as a result of fewer planned city projects and no increase in health care costs, which add an estimated $250,000 annually to the budget, according to the city.
Having fewer large capital improvement projects next year also means fewer outlays, which results in a smaller projected budget, city financial director Troy Tymesen said.
This year’s Seltice Way expansion, several downtown street projects as well as a wastewater improvement project kicked up the current financial plan. That won’t happen in next year’s budget, which takes effect Oct. 1.
“It’s due in large part to our significant change in capital projects,” Tymesen said. “When we don’t do those large projects, it swings our budget.”
In addition to a zero percent increase in property taxes, levy rates will decrease in the new budget thanks in large part to an increase in new construction. The impact of new construction is valued at $375,000 in tax dollars collected by the city compared to $325,000 collected last year. That will allow levy rates to drop from $5.90 per $1,000 valuation last year to $5.62 in the upcoming year.
The city’s valuation — taxable private property — increased to $3.9 billion from $3.6 billion last year.
Under the latest levy rate the owner of a $200,000 home who files for a homeowner’s exemption will save about $60 per year compared to the year before.
“Growth can have a real positive impact on the levy rate,” Tymesen said.
Despite a tight budget, the city will add one full-time police detective at a cost of $82,827, a public works inspector at a cost of $76,373, as well as a wastewater operator, and a full-time utility worker. Part-time positions will be added at the library, police department, in the street, parks, finance, water and municipal services departments.
The latest budget also socks away almost $9 million in an unassigned fund balance, or rainy day fund. Rainy day funds are a sort of savings account, Tymesen said, the city can use to address revenue shortfalls, unplanned expenditures or to stabilize tax rates. The amount in the city’s rainy day fund is almost twice the recommended amount — usually two months of regular general fund operating costs.
“We can deliver a budget that has no property tax increases, a levy rate that is lowered and that adds staff,” Tymesen said. “It’s a good year.”