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Housing Authority budget discussed

Saying there is still a lot of work to do on the 2008 budget, Sunnyside Housing Authority commissioners nonetheless expressed their pleasure last night with the progress being made, saying they are better off than they were the same time last year.

Of the nine properties the authority oversees, none of the properties will have a rent increase. Vacancies are also down this year, due to the USDA having relaxed restrictions on only allowing farm-related workers to live in the rental units, according to Kelly Nielsen, accountant for the housing authority. This has also increased the rent revenues the authority receives.

Administrative increases have been proposed in the new budget, including an 8 percent salary increase for all non group home staff with only a few exceptions. The budget proposal also reflects a 15 percent salary increase for the executive director, improving the salary from $91,343 in 2007 to $104,196 in 2008. Those numbers include benefits.

Housing authority staff is also seeking a 13 percent increase in the accountant's salary, an 11 percent increase for the bilingual housing officer, an 8.5 percent increase in the bilingual housing clerk's salary and a 9.25 percent increase in the group home director's salary.

The proposed salary increases are due to the fact that last year there weren't any, and the current numbers reflect the change in cost of living adjustments.

Increases in utility billings are also being sought on housing authority properties. The proposal calls for water bills to rise 3 percent in Sunnyside, 7 percent in Grandview and 5 percent in Mabton. Sewer hikes would amount to 8 percent for all three cities. A 5 percent increase in garbage rates is being sought only for Sunnyside properties. A 5 percent increase across the board is being sought for natural gas billings, as well as a 17 percent increase in electricity charges. A 5 percent increase is also being sought in Sunnyside for irrigation.

Several improvements to properties owned by the housing authority are being looked into but these are more of a wish list than a reality, although all projects will be attempted to be completed in the coming year.

These improvements include a playground soft-fall unit to be installed at the HUD family property. The Rainier Development property is earmarked for $50,500 in improvements. Sunshine Plaza is scheduled for $100,775 in improvements, with window replacements taking the bulk of that, to the tune of $69,000.

Roza Park is scheduled for at least $58,975 in improvements but that number could go up if windows are replaced for the 20 units on that property. Other scheduled improvements include expenditures at the Foothills property ($10,952), Harvest Homes ($20,105), Plaza Del Sol ($9,175), the Mabton Single Family complex ($5,200) and Group Home ($59,275).

The next budget workshop will be held Wednesday, Sept. 19, where the commissioners have requested more information regarding the budget. Commissioners also stressed these numbers are only preliminary and there will undoubtedly be some changes.

The commissioners did say the 2008 budget could be approved by the next meeting if everything falls into place.

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