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Cheney Free Press
Cheney , Washington
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October 29, 2015     Cheney Free Press
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October 29, 2015
 

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CHENEY FREE PRESS Thursday, October 29, 2015 NEWS urrent expense continued from page 1 as police, fire, courts, administration, finance and, to a much lesser degree in Cheney, parks and recreation. And like other cities around the state, Cheney has found its current expense fund shrinking in its ability to keep up with the mount- ing expenses and needs of the depart- ments it supplies. That was evident in a current expense budget workshop the City Council held several weeks ago, Oct. 6, at the Utility Building's conference room. While firm figures are still being worked on, Finance Direaor Cindy Niemeier and City Admin- istrator Mark Schuller told council mem- bers the current expense fund wouldn't differ much from last year' s $6.728 million number, with Niemeier adding the 2016 fund was out of balance on the expense side by about $57,000. As of this Oct. 27, that had not changed. "The general fund is still in the same funding as it was at the workshop," Nie- meier said in an email. While enterprise funds such as Public Works and Lighting are relatively healthy, thanks to service charges based on usage, the current expense fund has suffered due to ~tances outside the city's control. Statewide citizen initiatives have elimi- nated or drastically reduced motor vehicle excise taxes and liquor revenues while cap- ping the annual increases in property taxes to a rate that lags well behind in goods and services the dry uses. As an example of one area o loss, the Association of Washington Cities projects Cheney will lose $419,315 in liquor revenues from 2013 - 2017 due to the privatization of liquor by initiative in 2011. The loss of large businesses such as Bo- nanza Ford, along with a sluggish housing market at the end of the last decade also played a role. The city has seen some relief through sales taxes from construction at Eastern Washington University, and the housing market appears to be bouncing back, but these haven't led to increasing health in the current expense fund. To meet long-delayed staffing and equipment replacement needs in public safety, the dty is asking the public to pass a ballot measure Nov. 3 raising the dty's property tax levy lid. That would result in an estimated increase to the city's general fund of $410,975 a year, but it is money city officials have stressed goes first to meeting public safety's requests before anything else. That leaves other departments looking elsewhere in the budget for money to meet needs they have put off, or hoping public continued from page 1 looming, Ross told the council that the consid- eration of taking on more debt in order to finance some needed purchases is an option they might want to consider. "I'm not a big fan of debt, but it's really about what does the council feeL" Ross said. Two major expenses facing the city reside in the Fire Department. One of those is a new brush truck, which could run in the neighborhood of $200,000, while the other is an expense facing fire departments in Cheney and Airway Heights along with Medi- cal Lake - airpacks. ML Fire Chief Jason Mayfield told the council that airpacks were one of several items purchased 10-11 years ago through a large grant, but were now nearing the end of their life expectancy. Replacing them is something that can't be done "piecemeal or in increments" due to fairly rapid and constant changes in standards and technology. Of the department's 22 airpacks, most expire at the end of 2016, with a few going in early 2017. "We need to plan for it, but won't move on it until June," Mayfield said. Mayfield said he wants to take a shot at the Assistance for Fire- fighters grant program to see what funding is available. Medical Lake has not been successful at getting funding from this program in the past, but Mayfield said he is talk- ing with Airway Heights Fire Chief Mitch Metzger about the possibility of "I'm not a big fan of debt, but it's really about what does the council feel." City Administrator Doug Ross or John Higgins would like to see take place in the coming year is the expansion of more parks and recreation programs and events, such as the popular summer movies, along with the painting of the interior and exte- rior of City Hall. He and Ross both said discus- sions are taking place about charges for using Waterfront Park, with discounts extended to Medical Lake residents, along with talks with the Spokane County Sher- iff's Office on getting cost reductions in the city's law enforcement services con- tract. getting a grant to cover Currently the city is both departments, paying $862,000 for law "Regional grants tend enforcement, and Hig- to have success if you gins said they are work- can show a larger need," ing at getting those low- Mayfield said. ered, although a county The need to purchase proposal to eliminate a new road grader again paying for space at City came to the surface, as it Hall's former police sta- did at last year's work- tion might offset any re- shop and was noted then ductions. Higgins noted it had been brought up this was his 10th bud- in previous sessions, get process as mayor, Ross said purchasing and that the city always that piece of equipment managed to balance its wouldn't take place in budget while also buy- 2016, but would need to ing a few things here and soon as the city is run- there. ning out of ways to make J o h n M c C a I - parts for it. lure can be reached at Several projects May- jmac@cheneyfreepress.com. Andrew F. Martinssen, DDS Comprehensive dentistry with a gentle and artistic touch Dental care for your whole family - New patients welcome - Full service quality dentistry - Friendly, caring atmosphere - Prompt emergency care - Convenient hours - Botox treatments available - Senior discounts - Preferred provider for most insurance Call for an appointment 509-235-6137 d= CateCred~t~ 625 B Street, Cheney mart:inssendds.com Photo by John McCallum As God as my witness... Turkeys can fly! At least wild ones can, as one takes off and two others prepare to take flight at a Cheney-Spokane Road residence last Saturday. safety gets taken care of as soon as possible, if the measure passes. At the Oct. 6 workshop, Niemeier and Schuller said the city' s utility management system needs to be upgraded. The current system dates to 1995, and while sffil good, it needs to be augmented with something more efficient, "We have a lot of stand alone systems right now/' Schuller said. "We need one that integrates everything." Niemeier said state auditing costs are increasing by $5,000, adding she has moved some money around in the budget to account for this, and that new account- ing standards coming down the pipe will affect how all city funds are handled, including enterprise funds. Cheney Municipal Court Administra- tor Terri Cooper said her department is really the "third arm of public safety" in its work. New laws opening up public records access and establishing more of- fender rights in court create additional costs to the court, such as the need for better courtroom security and equipment to handle attorneys' document requests while in court. Cooper said over the last four years, court funding has been cut 67 percent. Among the 11 items Cooper licked off as needed was a part-time clerk to handle the expanding workload - including parking ticket increases at EWU and in the dry- at an estimated $9,600. She also asked her title be elevated to department head, with accom- panying pay increase as she is not compensated for time served on the bench, something currently saving the city money over hiring an outside administrator. Finally, she requested $4,000 annually, for the city's domes- tic violence advocate A.R.M.S., Abuse Recovery Ministry Services, which has been doing the work free for the last three years "I think it would be a nice thank you to this non-profit,, Cooper said. Schuller offered a bit of good news in noting the Parks and Recreation Depart- menf s interfund loans have been paid off, and the city is beginning to establish a bit of reserve. He said they are looking at do- ing organizational restructuring, steering away from an actual department head, and that recreational programs remain strong. He went on to say park upgrades, such as repairs to restrooms, replacing damaged playground equipment and fixing Sutton Park's Gazebo, have been neglected for a long time and are coming due. The city is looking at additional pool work, including lighting upgrades for safety and a new chlorinator, but needs to come up with a long-term solution regarding its aging aquatics facility. John McCallum can be reached at ]~u~'@~ess.com. Call me today to discuss your options, Some people think Allstate only protects your car. Truth is, Allstate can also protect your home or apartment, your boat, motorcycle - even your reti.rement and your life. 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