Public gets to weigh in on Langley’s budget tonight

More help in city hall, new vehicles for the police department and public works, as well as software updates are in next year’s spending plan for the city of Langley.

The public gets to weigh in on the 2008 budget at 6:30 p.m. tonight during Langley’s regular city council meeting at city hall.

The city has a total budget of more than $3.75 million for 2008. It’s a drop of about $166,000 from what the city has spent so far for this year, but more than $1 million over the 2006 budget, according to the budget draft.

The general fund, which provides for basic government services such as police protection and the costs of city hall, totals nearly $1.4 million. The general fund is balanced with a proposed levy increase of 1 percent, plus property tax revenues from new construction that come to about $341,000, according to the budget draft.

Of these property taxes, $70,012 in revenues will be transferred to the street fund for upcoming projects.

Sales taxes are estimated at $289,927 for the year, which is very close to this year’s estimate.

Clerk/treasurer Debbie Mahler remarked that sales tax revenue has been growing in recent years, but with economic fluctuations and the closing of Nichols Brothers Boat Builders, the South End’s largest private employer, the city has put conservative estimates in the 2008 budget.

However, the budget still provides for some innovations around city hall.

The clerk/treasurer’s office and the police department will gain a shared clerical employee in 2008. This is a full-time position, with the employee working 25 to 32 hours a week in the clerk’s office and 8 to 15 hours in the police department, according to the budget.

“The new employee will be paid up to $30,180, part of which comes from the police budget, plus benefits,” Mahler said.

Merit and cost-of-living raises for other employees are also included in the budget.

A new police car and a vehicle for the public works department are also in the budget. These purchases will be made from reserve funds where money is set aside each year to pay for equipment.

“I budgeted $25,000 for the police vehicle and $34,000 for the public works vehicle. They are purchased from the capital reserve fund which has money set aside each year for that purpose,” Mahler said.

The clerk/treasurer’s office will get updated financial computer software to replace the outdated DOS system it now has in the office.

Emergency planning and energy resource conservation will be continued to be funded within the new budget.

However, the city will receive some grants to help pay for the two contractors leading the efforts.

A grant will also help pay for comp plan related work. The city will get a grant for growth management purposes to revise and implement the new comprehensive plan, Mahler said.

The city has already received a planning grant for $45,000, an archives grant for $10,000, an energy grant for $12,000 and an emergency planning grant for $9,000, Mahler said.

After completing a lengthy water rate study earlier this year, a proposed increase in water rates and connection fees will flow into the new budget.

Details about the rate increase will also be discussed at tonight’s meeting.

The increase will provide for adequate cash flow and proper operation of the water system, as well as fund capital improvements if necessary, Langley officials said.

The city council will have a first reading on the budget Dec. 5 and is expected to approve the budget on Dec. 19.

“I don’t expect to see much change in the budget, but will know more after the hearing,” Mahler said.

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