The City of University Place’s proposed 2013-14 budget boils down to two fundamentals: maintaining city services and paying down debt.
No new programs or services, taxes or fee increases are proposed. The city plans to hire a single part-time employee to help at the senior center.
“It’s a pretty simple budget compared to some prior years,” Finance Director Eric Faison said.
But the two-year spending plan does include the first revenue boost from a major professional golf tournament, and it brings back a benefit for city employees:
• It contains early revenue tied to the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. The city expects admission taxes to grow by $540,000 in 2014 from advance ticket sales for the tournament.
• It gives employees three “merit” days. These paid days off, which the city last doled out in 2010, are a gesture to recognize the city hasn’t granted employees merit or cost-of-living adjustments since 2009. That year, UP had to lay off 30 percent of its staff due to a looming budget shortfall.
The city has 48 full-time-equivalent employees. It also contracts with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department for its police force of 15 deputies, one investigator and one secretary.
UP’s proposed operating budget will fall from $26.6 million in 2013 to $24.1 million in 2014, primarily due to anticipated spending on Town Center improvements in the first half of the biennium. The city’s total budget for the two-year period is $65.3 million.
The City Council vote with the biggest implications came last week when it authorized refinancing a $12.4 million payment due on Town Center debt next year; the city will now pay annual installments over the next 25 years. The bond sale could occur as early as next week.
UP doesn’t have a lot of wiggle room in its spending plan due to debt obligations and a stagnant tax base. State law caps at 1 percent the increase in property taxes cities can receive each year; all property taxes collected in UP go to pay its police contract.
The city does expect an increase in sales tax revenue, mostly from the massive upgrade of the county’s wastewater treatment plant.
The 17-year-old city of 31,000 residents owes more than $50 million on debt and loans to construct Town Center, purchase city offices, acquire and develop parks and improve streets. The city will pay down $3.6 million of debt in 2013 and nearly $4 million the following year.
The City Council made some slight budget adjustments during a study session Monday night. They included hiring a part-time employee for the senior center for $11,400 a year; the center now has one employee.
Council members also budgeted $5,000 each for business recruitment, U.S. Open marketing, snow and ice removal, and increased traffic control for the city’s Duck Daze event. The additions total $71,900 for the two-year period.
UP will reduce the City Council budget by $40,000 and dip into reserves to pay the remaining costs.
The budget does pave the way for street improvements. The city will improve Bridgeport Way from 54th Street to Chambers Lane with bike lanes, sidewalks, lighting and center islands.
The budget also contains two other grant-funded projects: adding sidewalks to 19th Avenue from Bridgeport Way to Mildred Street, and improving Mildred from 19th to Regents Boulevard, a joint project with Fircrest. The city also will use grant dollars to construct bike lanes and sidewalks on Beckonridge Drive from Cirque to Grandview drives, and 27th Street from Grandview to Bridgeport Way.
The city will continue to invest in its Town Center mixed-use development in a continuing bid to attract private-sector interest. Due to the weak economy, the spending plan assumes no tax revenue from the project, which will turn 10 years old next year.
Last year, the city secured nearly $4.9 million in bond proceeds that will be repaid using a slice of the state sales tax that Washington officials agreed to divert to the city. The city has spent some of the money inside the underground parking garage and for street-level parking, crosswalks and sidewalks. The city has budgeted the remaining state sales-tax funding in the coming two-year period, though it hasn’t identified further projects.