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Mabton close to adopting 2008 budget

MABTON - At long last, the Mabton City Council budget study sessions have come to an end.

City council members met last night (Tuesday) to go over final figures.

Ultimately, the city administrator position was cut, as was a police officer and public works position.

That's not all. It's expected an ordinance will be adopted Dec. 26 raising the utility tax to 25 percent. Animal license fees are about to go up, too, as are yard sale permits.

Mabton City Council members have spent the last few months making some tough decisions.

One question council members had last night was whether it's possible to eliminate a public works position when employees are in union mediation.

Kevin Wesley, the city's representative during the mediation process with the Teamsters, was on hand last night to respond to council queries. One question that had been raised at the last council meeting is why the process of forming a collective bargaining agreement is taking so long.

Wesley explained that the process is at an impasse mainly because the Teamsters want all grievances to be handled by a professional labor arbitrator that would result in a binding decision.

"Each grievance could cost the city between $7,000 and $10,000," he explained, adding there's no way to predict how many grievances the city might have in a year.

Simply put, the city can't afford it.

Another issue Wesley cited is that the city can't promise wage increases for the three-year agreement. But Wesley said it's possible the Teamsters are agreeable to a wage opener for 2009 and 2010. A wage opener means that if the city is doing better off financially, then perhaps the employees could get a raise.

Wesley said that the mediation process could remain at a standstill should the issue regarding a labor arbitrator remain unresolved.

The 2008 budget reflects $638, 841 in revenues and $608,668 in expenditures from the current expense fund, which would leave an ending fund balance of $31,172.

Council is expected to approve the budget on Dec. 26 at city hall at 7 p.m. A public hearing regarding the utility tax increase will take place at that time.

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