Budget talks include windfall discussion

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WALLA WALLA — On Wednesday, the City Council will hold its first public hearing dealing with the 2013-14 budget, in which city officials will face across-the-board department cuts, the loss of one police officer and one fire prevention officer, library hour cuts, the complete closure of the Pioneer Park Aviary and property tax increases.

Along with having to deal with the effects of flat revenues and rising health care, retirement and salary costs, the city must also decide on what to do with a windfall of $100,000.

If all goes as staff plans, the money will be set aside for future discretionary expenses.

“I got lists of projects …” City Manager Nabiel Shawa said in regard to the sales-tax windfall, “but a hundred thousand bucks just starts to eat away at the top of the list.”

The projected windfall will come from the city’s portion of sale tax revenues on two multimillion dollar construction projects taking place simultaneously at the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Washington State Penitentiary.

Shawa noted the money is a one-time boost that will not be available in subsequent years and advised Council to use it for one-time expenses.

“Lets take that one-time revenue and use it for the one-time costs and use the discipline to not use that money for programs with multiyear costs,” Shawa said.

One-time windfalls are not entirely new to the city.

In 2011, the city received $48,000 that resulted from the state’s one-time sales-tax amnesty program. And roughly $30,000 of that windfall was used to pay a consultant to review and find ways to improve a number of city services and policies to better serve the public.

Shawa noted there are several high priority projects where the $100,000 could be spent: a fire station re-roofing, a new HVAC system for the library, a seismic retrofit study for the 104-year-old City Hall and 27 bridges that haven’t received structural reviews since 1994.

“I probably got a million dollars worth of analysis projects we could use the money for, but we just have to discipline ourselves,” Shawa said.

The public hearing will be Wednesday at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 15 N. Third Ave.

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