Town plans budget hearing Tuesday
By ELISABETH MURRAY
Whidbey Examiner Staff
November 21, 2012 · Updated 8:05 AM
Winter is fast approaching and that means two things.
The weather is getting colder and the Town of Coupeville is close to adopting its budget for next year.
Coupeville Mayor Nancy Conard said the proposed $4.9 million budget for 2013 is balanced and maintains staffing and services at their current levels.
“In these economic times, this is good news,” Conard wrote in her 2013 budget message, adding that “the numbers are tighter each year.”
Conard thanked the town staff, who she said “have made it possible to maintain most services with no real increases in funding.”
For town employees, this means that they will go another year without salary increases – the fourth year in a row. Instead, in 2011 and 2012 employees received a one-time additional payment in lieu of a pay increase.
Yet, pay may be contributing to employee turnover – at least in the Marshal’s Office. Three of the town’s four deputies recently left the force. Two of them accepted higher paying jobs outside of Coupeville.
The 2013 budget will keep in place the same amount of money it would take to pay the salaries of the four deputies, plus that of the Town Marshal, said Conard.
However, as the town moves towards finding a staffing solution to continue to provide 24-hour coverage, the allocation of that money may change. The money may be spent on a different staffing arrangement, Conard said.
Among the Capital Fund expenditures, $50,000 has been allocated for improvements to the Holbrook Barn. The historic outbuilding was donated by Coupeville builder Dan Miranda and transported at his expense to the Coupeville Community Green near the library last spring. The structure could potentially house public restrooms adjacent to the Coupeville Farmers Market and the town’s public parking lot.
Town officials also anticipate replacing part of the water and sewer lines on Madrona Way between Broadway and Vine. Money to pay for this capital project will come from the Water and Sewer Capital Improvement Fund.
The hearing will also address 2013 revenue sources and the 2013 property tax levy.
Sales tax revenue has been holding steady, Conard said. Sales taxes make up about 24 percent of the revenue for the General Fund.
“It remains so important that we support our local businesses, shop local and keep our sales tax revenue at home,” she wrote in her budget message.
Property taxes account for approximately 27 percent of the revenue to support the General Fund.
The town’s regular property-tax levy will increase by 1 percent – the maximum amount allowed under state law without voter approval. This increase will go toward paying the increase in the town’s liability insurance, as well as its portion of medical insurance premiums for employees.
The employees’ portion also will increase.
Conard said she also expects a reduction in the liquor tax revenue. This is due to the recent change in how liquor is sold in the state, she said.
No changes have been proposed in the 2013 budget for the town’s fee schedule.
A utility rate study will be conducted next year. The rates for water have not increased since 1993, and sewer since 1999. The study will also address the potential creation of a stormwater utility. The additional fee would be dedicated to the treatment of stormwater, a fee that many other cities and towns already collect, Conard said.
The town’s preliminary budget is available for review online at townofcoupeville.org. Printed copies are available at Coupeville Town Hall, 4 NE Seventh St.
On Tuesday, Nov. 27, the town council will hold a public hearing on the 2013 budget. The meeting is 6:30 p.m. in the Island County Commissioners Hearing Room, 1 N.E. Sixth St., Coupeville. Depending on the comments received, the budget may be adopted that evening.