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Long-term planning a priority

by Brian Walker
| December 19, 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.

HAUSER - Long-term planning is a budget focus for the city of Hauser heading into the new year.

Hauser's total expenses for the current fiscal year are $128,741. With an estimated population of 750, the city is spending about $172 per capita.

The city's staff consists of only a treasurer, city clerk and code administrator. Citizens do not have or pay for several services offered in larger cities, including sewer and water. The water is obtained through a water association. Snow removal and road maintenance are contracted through the Post Falls Highway District.

"Most of the funds are going to updates to the comprehensive plan and development code, ordinances and maintenance of trails and other public spaces," said Tina McCoy, treasurer. "Our primary focus is on land use and protection of Hauser Lake. With limited income, there isn't much we can do so we make the most of our bucks with long-term planning.

"The city could raise taxes for other activities, but we believe we should invest what we have in planning for the future and that will give us citizen input as to what residents deem important."

Mayor Olita "Oly" Johnston said the city took about $30,000 out of its reserve account this year to meet all its expenses.

"We don't have much to cut back on," she said.

With the comprehensive plan, which is nearly finished, the city increased pay for code administrative services from $1,200 a month to $2,400. Clerk services - at $15 per hour - cost about $300 extra per month for the plan.

Mailings for developing the plan have run about $400 each.

"The plan has been quite costly and it will be nice to be done with it," Mayor Johnston said.

The city spends $2,000 each year to sponsor Hauser Daze. It recently spent about $6,000 for a landscaping project around City Hall.

The city plans to sell two older Army trucks it purchased about four years ago. They're no longer needed since the highway district does the street maintenance.

Johnston said the city uses parking ticket revenue on activities to improve the lake.

After the comprehensive plan is completed, Johnston said she hopes the city can start saving money to apply toward a new community center. However, the council is still debating whether it wants to partner with the Lion's Club on the project. No land has been obtained, and the city's partnership is important to apply for grants.

"I'd like to see us put designated funds, if we have any, to do that," Johnston said. "It's been talked about since the 70s and 80s, but we've never done anything like that for the citizens. We just don't have room at City Hall."

It's unclear whether City Hall would be a part of a community center if one is built.

One project the city may be involved in during 2011 is a short walking path from Lake Street to the wetlands, intended to give citizens and visitors better access to the lake. However, some residents have concerns over parking and nuisance problems near the lake.

Johnston said the city will continue to consider logical annexation requests, especially those that are contiguous with the city's boundaries.

"The state encourages you to bring yourself together (with uniform boundaries), but that can be hard to do with the 5-acre parcels," Johnston said. "Just the word 'city' scares a lot of people because it's been more or less country out here."

Roger Lefebvre had his first meeting as a City Council member on Dec. 8. He was appointed to fill the seat of Laura Ward, who resigned because she's moving. The seat will be up for election in November 2011.

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