Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Cd'A approves $130M budget

Staff Writer | September 6, 2023 1:07 AM

COEUR d’ALENE — The Coeur d’Alene City Council on Tuesday approved a 2023-24 budget of $130.5 million.

“This financial plan really needs a 3% increase in property taxes,” said City Administrator Troy Tymesen.

Mayor Jim Hammond cut in to say it was an increase in the budget through property taxes, which will generate $767,514.

The budget also includes an increase in the use of fund balance of $2.4 million.

“That’s the No. 1 concern of this administrator,” Tymesen said.

The budget was passed on a 4-1 vote, with Councilman Dan Gookin saying no because he said he has vowed to oppose a property tax increase. Councilwoman Kiki Miller was not present.

Hammond said while the budget was approved, there is work to be done.

He said he would like to bring in the city’s three employee groups — Lake City Employees Association, police and firefighters — and the public to work with administration on future budgets.

“So we can make sure we are sustainable going forward as a city,” he said.

Tymesen said reduced levy rates due to the city’s skyrocketing valuation resulted in new growth dollars of just $224,239, nearly $650,000 less than just seven years ago, and contributed to the monetary challenges.

The city’s valuation has climbed more than 300% in 10 years to $11.8 billion.

“Because you have done such a good job of increasing the value of the city, new growth is not paying for itself,” Tymesen said.

He said the rising cost of living also impacted the budget, which includes general fund expenditures $21.9 million for the police department; $13.6 million for the fire department; $7.2 million for streets and engineering and $3 million for the parks department.

The city’s cost of living adjustments for personnel in 2024 will be $1.4 million, with a 3% increase for firefighters, 4.5% for police and 5% for the Lake City Employees Association.

Gookin argued the city could make cuts "if we really wanted to be serious and work on this.”

He questioned why, for instance, the city was spending money on public art, $239,500 is budgeted under special revenue fund expenditures, when money was tight.

"I want to do what’s right for the taxpayers," he said.

Councilman Woody McEvers said he believes the city provides value for the money.

He said he divided his city taxes by 365 days a year and came up with $3.09 a day. Considering all the services it provides, McEvers said he feels good "about what we do and the way we do it."

He hoped the financial picture would improve soon.

“As good as we are, economically it doesn't feel better sometimes,” McEvers said.

Councilwoman Christie Wood said none of the elected leaders wanted to take the allowable property tax increase but she was ready to move ahead with it. But she also said she did not want to cut personnel, which takes up about 75% of the budget.

She said public safety staffing must be maintained and pointed out crime has been reduced more than 60% in the last eight years and credited that to the police department.

“People cost money,” she said. "We have to pay for them.”

Wood said she went through the budget closely.

"There’s just nothing left at this point in time except to cut people," she said.

Wood said the city needs to look into a local option tax, which could generate money through visitors.

"This is something we desperately need to do," she said.

Resident Susie Snedeker said she went through the budget as she always does and questioned the city's use of money in several areas.

She said the budget is set in millions of dollars, “yet a guest entering City Hall is often greeted with an empty lobby desk and a sign.”

It was pointed out many city residential property owners may see property taxes decline due to lower property assessments and because Idaho property taxpayers will receive about $300 million in relief from the state this fall.

“Most homeowners will see a decrease in taxes paid to the city, while commercial properties will see an increase due to the large increases in taxable valuations for commercial properties and the slight decrease in residential property valuations,” according to a city report.