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S'side mulls excise tax hike

Could Sunnyside's solution to funding its parks be a one-quarter percent increase in real estate excise taxes?

That was the proposal city staff made to the city council last night during a workshop to review a preliminary budget for 2007.

Figures provided by city staff show that an additional $90,000 would be brought into the city coffers for parks through increasing the tax by one quarter of one percent.

Currently, Sunnyside assesses a one-quarter percent excise tax on property and real estate sold within the city limits. The proposed one-quarter hike, then, would in effect double the city's real estate excise tax.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said he would anticipate a city council vote on the excise tax at the same time it takes action on the 2007 budget later this year.

In other budget discussions last night, Public Works Director Jim Bridges pointed to proposals to hire two additional part-time seasonal employees. One would assist with parks and the other with street maintenance.

Other proposals include re-roofing the senior center and a $150,000 project to replace aging water mains on Gregory Avenue behind the bowling alley and on Sixth Street between Yakima Valley Highway and North Avenue.

During the first budget workshop session, held Monday night, council reviewed staff budget recommendations that call for hiring two additional police officers in 2007 to bring the total to 26.

City Manager Bob Stockwell said the new hires, if approved in the budget, would bring Sunnyside back to the police staffing levels it had in 2000-01. In related news, city staff propose the purchase of two additional police vehicles.

Also in that first session Monday, council reviewed a budget proposal to set aside $23,000 per year, beginning in 2007, to lease a new day reporting facility that is proposed to be adjacent to the Law and Justice building. The day reporting system enables juvenile offenders to receive schooling.

Council has two more budget workshops. The third meeting, on Wednesday, Oct. 25, will focus on legal, fire, finance and judicial budget matters for 2007.

The final workshop is set for Thursday, Oct. 26, and will discuss information technology, community development, executive and legislative budget priorities for 2007.

All workshops are open to the public and begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Law and Justice building.

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