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Grandview's 2006 budget snug

GRANDVIEW - City officials in Grandview will be hitching up their britches in the coming weeks as they work to adopt a tight budget for 2006.

Jim Sewell, the city's top administrator, described the preliminary draft of the new budget to the city council this past Tuesday at a special workshop as yet another "no frills" work in progress.

Sewell said his staff is attempting to implement the goals and objectives that the council prioritized during a recent retreat. One of those goals, he reminded council, is having balanced budgets in each of the city's funds.

The preliminary draft released at Tuesday's meeting shows balanced budgets for 2006 in the water/sewer fund, the garbage fund and the equipment rental fund. The problem, pointed out Sewell, is trying to balance the city's irrigation fund, cemetery fund, street fund and current expense fund.

Sewell said city staff has come up slightly short of balancing the irrigation fund, namely as a result of the recent rate increase passed on by the Sunnyside Valley Irrigation District. Sewell said the city's irrigation fund can be brought into balance if the city opts to increase the city irrigation rates, "...comparable to the SVID rate increase."

The cemetery fund is another matter, though. Sewell said the cemetery fund has been a perpetually difficult fund to balance.

Over the years city officials have considered a number of options when it comes to the local cemetery, but most recently concluded the cemetery should be maintained as a city-owned and operated cemetery, and must be expanded to serve future needs. The balancing act comes in maintaining the additional acreage set aside for future development.

Sewell reminded the council that in 2005 a program was implemented to raise the ground level of some of the lower lying areas of the cemetery to make those areas more usable. He said when this is complete, Grandview will have enough space for burials for the next 10 years.

"With that in mind, we looked at an expansion area west of Willoughby Road, and it appears that about five acres would serve the cemetery's future needs over the next 30-plus years," Sewell informed the council.

"Therefore, we are caring for a large parcel of land that will not be needed for the foreseeable future," he added. Sewell suggests that 10 acres be leased or sold, which would relieve the cemetery fund of considerable maintenance costs, and in most likelihood allow the cemetery fund to be balanced by the end of 2006.

Sewell went on to point out that the loss of the motor vehicle excise tax has made balancing the city's street fund difficult. The preliminary budget currently shows a revenue shortfall of $49,000. He said this coming November's vote to repeal the gas tax, if approved by voters, will mean another revenue drop for Grandview of about $18,000.

Preliminary figures in the city's 2006 current expense fund show a $146,000 difference between expected revenue next year and operating expenses.

Despite the expected shortfall, which totals about 4.6 percent combined in the current expense and street funds, the council expressed confidence that city officials can bring a balanced budget to the table for adoption by early December.

Additional budget study sessions are scheduled for Oct. 24, Nov. 14 and Nov. 28. On Monday, Nov. 7, Grandview residents will have the opportunity to offer their own suggestions for the 2006 budget at a public hearing. The final adoption of the budget is set for Dec. 5.

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