S'side approves $8.8 million general fund budget for 2007

Two additional police officers and a real estate excise tax hike to fund parks are some of the hallmarks of the city of Sunnyside's $8.8 million budget for 2007, approved last night by city council.

Following four budget hearings over the past month, the Sunnyside City Council approved a general fund budget of $8.8 million, which represents a 2.5 percent increase over 2006.

Because of work completed on the city's sewer plant, Sunnyside's total budget expenditures next year will be $28.2 million, down more than $10 million from 2006.

Other features of the 2007 budget include:

- Adding two half-days of municipal court each month.

- An additional full-time staff person to work in the areas of finance, code enforcement and community development.

- Hiring a full-time firefighter/paramedic to establish three shifts with four personnel per shift for the fire department.

- The first year of the real estate excise tax increase of one-quarter percent is expected to bring in $90,000 for parks and in 2007 will be dedicated to replace the city's aging water slide at the pool.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said it wasn't a matter of whether the slide needed to be removed, but a question of whether it would be replaced.

City Councilman Bruce Epps joined his colleagues in approving the tax hike, but only, he said, because it would be spent for parks.

Mayor Ed Prilucik noted the public has brought up several concerns over park upkeep over the past year. "It's way up on the list of things we hear that citizens want," he said.

Councilman Bill Gant noted a steady source of park funding is important so that Sunnyside doesn't take "a step back."

- Property taxes in the city were raised by 1 percent, as allowed under state law. The increase will bring an additional $15,000 into the city's coffers, said Stockwell.

After Councilwoman Carol Stone questioned the property tax increase, Stockwell noted it was needed to meet costs that rise each year.

Other features of the 2007 budget include:

- Hiring two additional part-time seasonal employees for the Public Works Department. One will assist with parks and the other with street maintenance.

- A $150,000 project to replace aging water mains on Gregory Avenue behind the bowling alley and on Sixth Street.

- Fixing the roof on the senior center.

Stockwell said the combination of an improved economy and belt-tightening measures two years ago in streamlining the city's administrative costs have improved Sunnyside's financial outlook.

The 2007 budget will reduce the city's beginning balance from the general fund from just over $1.3 million to an ending fund balance of approximately $770,000 in 2007.

For all budgets, including water, sewer and street funds, the city's beginning balance will drop from $5.6 million to an ending fund balance of $2.7 million in 2007.

Stockwell explained later that the beginning balance represents funds remaining from 2006 and the ending fund balance represents the reserves the city is committed to maintaining.

In addition to the overall $2.7 million ending fund balance for reserves, Stockwell noted the city has another $2.5 million worth of real estate in reserves.


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