2-year budget in Tumwater

In its first crack at a biennial budget, the City of Tumwater plans to increase the amount employees pay into their health care coverage and hire additional staff, including three firefighters.

Citing efficiency and better forecasting, City Administrator John Doan said the proposed $96.2 million budget that covers both 2011 and 2012 will allow the city to shape a more sustainable budget and use off-budget years to focus on capital facility plans.

Previously, the city had budgeted year by year.

“It also provides a little more stability that they (department heads) have a longer time frame to work from,” Mayor Pete Kmet said. The city must move forward despite tough economic times, he added.

With revenues continuing flat or dropping and employee expenses rising, a major component of balancing this year’s budget was asking more from employees, Doan said.

The budget calls for no cost-of-living increase, and employees will also be required to pay more of their medical insurance cost. Depending on the individual, additional pay-in could cost between $165 and $557.

Contracted employees may also have to renegotiate raises earned in past years, Kmet added.

Since 2008, the city has cut 14.5 jobs to save money, Kmet said. Employee costs make up about 80 percent of the city’s general fund expenses.

There are fewer capital projects budgeted in the next biennium, though the city does plan to make improvements along 70th Street and at the intersection of Tumwater and Henderson boulevards.

Another $600,000 is budgeted for the design, property acquisition and construction of the Deschutes Valley trail and is paid for through community park and impact fees.

Tumwater will also pay $1.1 million in debt payments on the Tumwater Valley Municipal Golf Course over the next two years.

The budget reveals several funding placeholders for potential bond measures that could go before voters next year.

Nearly $1 million is budgeted for an estimated $5.2 million construction project to add 11,000 square feet to City Hall for police headquarters, renovations of the current building and replacing the building’s roof. Voters could vote on a 20-year bond in 2011 to fund the project.

The city would also like to purchase two fire engines, a command vehicle and two police vehicles and replace aging equipment. Its budgeted $1.52 million and funding would come through a voter-approved 10-year bond.

A lot still has to be discussed within committees and council, including timing and how much money is needed, before any decision is made on bond issues, city officials say.

The only proposed tax increase will come from the 1 percent jump in property tax revenue, which the city estimates would generate an additional $48,000.

There is also a proposed increase in water rates over the next two years to pay for redeveloping well fields, waterline improvements and hiring an additional employee to run the new water disinfection system. Water rates could jump 10 percent in 2011 and 7.5 percent in 2012, Kmet said.

And while it leaves many jobs vacant, Tumwater will add 4.5 positions over the next two years: three new firefighters to staff the North End fire station, a water quality technician and a part-time maintenance worker.

The city is also creating a communications coordinator position that will create newsletters, update and maintain the city’s website and take care of other promotional and marketing details. The position will be filled internally.

Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 nhulings@theolympian.com