Council comfortable with city’s 2014 budget

An in-depth discussion of the city of Sunnyside’s 2014 budget yielded no surprises and few concerns at last night’s regular city council meeting.

City Manager Don Day said the budget is flat, with very little increase from last year. He said the projected revenues are just more than $28 million and the expenditures are slated to be about $31.5 million.

“This is a sustainable budget,” Day said. “Don’t panic when you see the deficit there. There actually is the revenue because of the beginning fund balance. We believe this is a good budget.”

He said the city will not have an increase in manpower or positions in 2014. Day also said the budget allows for anticipated pay raises that unions are currently negotiating with the city.

At the public hearing portion of the meeting only two members of the public spoke. Larry Hill of Sunnyside asked about the status of the police department’s K9 unit and Laurie Beltman, owner of a Sunnyside car wash, expressed concern over a possible rise in water rates.

Hill’s concerns were addressed by Day, who said the budget makes no changes in the city’s K9 program. Beltman’s concerns were not addressed directly, as the results of the city’s water study will not be available until the next council meeting.

Council members had a variety of questions about the budget, particularly Councilman Jason Raines, who worked through a list of questions. Many of the answers turned out to be changes due to the way Finance Director David Layden is accounting for funds.

Raines also asked about completing the soccer fields near the Law and Justice Center. After a short discussion the council indicated it was in favor of using real estate excise tax (REET) funds to finish the fields as quickly as possible.

Another question Raines asked was in regard to a new police car in the budget. Day said he wants the city to get onto a system of purchasing new vehicles for its fleet on a regular basis. He said the city had multiple ambulances break down on the same day recently, and hoped to avoid such problems in the future by budgeting new equipment into each year. Raines asked if the new police car would have a camera installed.

Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck cautioned the council against putting together a video system for police piecemeal, noting that it would become very difficult to maintain the system if different equipment is purchased.

Deputy Mayor Don Vlieger concurred, suggesting that the council explore the idea of cameras for police before going ahead. Vlieger argued that cameras could become a bureaucratic nightmare due to public information requests.

Council also discussed how to provide more money to the city’s parks and recreation department, but Day said that he has a plan to take care of the needs of parks and recreation without increasing the 2014 budget. He did not elaborate on the plan at the meeting.

The Sunnyside council plans to pass the final budget at the next regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 9.

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