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Athol spending remains the same

by Alecia Warren
| December 18, 2010 8:00 PM

Editor's note: You can't put a price tag on quality of life in any given city, but you can do some simple math and figure out about what each city spends on its residents.

The Press offers an informal but, we hope, interesting series that looks at the budgets of Kootenai County cities and determines how those budgets translate into per-resident spending. We also offer perspectives from people who live in these communities about how much bang they believe they get for their municipal-targeted buck.

ATHOL - The mayor of Athol doesn't have much to say about his city's spending. In that sense, silence is golden.

Things are about the same for the small town 20 miles north of Coeur d'Alene, Lanny Spurlock said. No real impacts from the recession, good or bad.

Same services provided as usual, with, he added, no observable need for change.

"There are really no issues," he said. "The city seems to be faring pretty well."

The city's budget for the 2010-11 fiscal year is $557,642.

With a population of 800, estimated by City Clerk Sally Hansen, the city is spending about $697 per person.

The city population was 676 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census.

Spurlock says the expenditures per citizen makes sense. That number is about the same the city usually spends for the same services, he said: Water and streets.

There is $236,900 set aside for street maintenance, and $162,019 for water and waste water.

With police and fire protection provided by Kootenai County, Spurlock said, and the library falling under Kootenai-Shoshone Area Libraries, Athol doesn't have much else to worry about.

"They (Athol residents) are still getting the same good services they've had before," Spurlock said.

The mayor touts that the city is able to make immediate repairs on water service, and has funded occasional improvements over the years. The roads are in decent shape, he added.

The key to keeping a small, rural town driving smooth, he added, is spending only as much as needed.

"We don't spend money we don't have," he said. "That's where a lot of governments get into trouble."

The city's general fund of $158,723 is carried over from previous years, Spurlock said. It remains set aside for a rainy day.

"We've got money in the bank and no bills," Spurlock said.

He doesn't expect spending will stretch anytime soon, he said. No big projects are in the works.

"There just isn't much change. You can word it any way you want to," he said. "We didn't do anything to raise taxes."

Many Athol residents work in larger municipalities like Coeur d'Alene and Post Falls, he said, but prefer to live in a quiet place without urban complications.

"We don't have a lot of trouble with gangs, and the other pieces," he said.

He characterized Athol as a place where neighbors are willing to lend each other a hand.

"Most have been here quite awhile," Spurlock said.

What The Citizens Say

Susie Wachter, 57

How is your quality of life in Athol?

- It's very good. I like that it's kind of small community. Everybody cares about each other.

Is there anything the city should be doing differently?

- I really don't think so. I've been very happy with the way the money that is in the city is distributed and taken care of. We've increased our park up here. We've put playground equipment in. It keeps the kids out of trouble.

Do you think you're getting your bang for your buck, for the tax dollars you pay?

- Yes I do. I think they (the City Council) are doing really well.

Mary Zichko, 65

How is your quality of life in Athol?

- Athol has a small budget, but in the wintertime the maintenance is really good. I think they (the city) does really great.

Is there anything the city should be doing differently?

- I think maybe something more for seniors. Like Coeur d'Alene has the free bus - we don't get that option up here. I know it's through the (Coeur d'Alene) Tribe, but it would be really good for a lot of older people up here. A lot them can't drive anymore.

Do you think you're getting your bang for your buck, for the tax dollars you pay?

- I think they do really well with what they've got. We really can't afford to pay more taxes.

Dan Holmes, 49

How is your quality of life in Athol?

- There are great people. It's a small town. You know everybody. It's a community that when something happens, a lot of people know about it and they rally around people.

Is there anything the city should be doing differently?

- I can't think of anything. We're a small town, a bedroom community. If we grew bigger, we wouldn't know everybody. The way Athol is right now is perfect.

Do you think you're getting your bang for your buck, for the tax dollars you pay?

- I would say everything is perfect. Athol is not Seattle. It's not Coeur d'Alene. And there's a lot of people in the area who look down at Athol, who think we're backward. But I think we're very progressive.

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