Langley squeezes budget

Expecting only a tiny increase in revenue from property taxes in 2002, the city of Langley will barely be able to pay for increases in its liability insurance rates, employee salaries and benefits and electricity costs.

By the end of next year, the city will have only $456 left in its general fund checkbook, if everything in its budget balances out to the penny.

This close shave in the money department is not happening for the lack of trying to find more cash. As they took their first look at a preliminary draft of the $3.8 million budget Wednesday night, city council members noted cuts in staff and public works spending, as well as an innovative method of squeezing an extra $13,000 out of property taxes.

Though his city will spend about $2.4 million next year, Mayor Lloyd Furman said the 2002 budget has little wiggle room. Predicting the passage of Initiative 747 — which limits property tax increases to one percent per year — Furman said Langley will have to spend responsibly.

“This is a balanced budget ... but it is a very tight budget,” he said.

This is the third year in a row that the city has been held to minute property tax increases. The passage of I-722 in 2000 kept tax jumps to just 2 percent during the past two years, as opposed to the 6 percent allowed in previous years.

To make up for this dwindling income, the city will fall back on banked levy capacity, a legal maneuver that allows the city to essentially charge the property tax increases it could have if I-722 had not passed. The retroactive charges should net Langley about $13,000 for next year’s budget.

Areas of the budget that most concerned council members were a projected 22 percent hike in electricity rates and a 16 percent jump in liability insurance. Furman said the insurance increase is a direct result of insurance losses due to the Sept. 11 terror attacks on the East Coast. He said a number of re-insurance companies have gone bankrupt due to the attacks and the remaining companies are increasing premiums.

Councilman Neil Colburn called the increased premiums unfair. He said Langley had no claims on its liability insurance during the past year and that there was no terrorism in Washington “except for what the legislature did last year,” a reference to the state’s budget.

One area where the city will save money is on maintenance staff for the water system. The city eliminated one employee from its public works department and contracted the work to Wastewater Services, the company that currently maintains the city’s sewer plant. Savings from the move are about $20,000.

Total salaries and benefits expected to be paid out during the year exceed $540,000.

Where the money goes
Langley plans to spend more than $2.4 million in 2002.

Here are some of the planned budget expenditures for next year:

  Road improvements $560,000
  Law enforcement $300,466
  Library expenses $36,937
  911 emergency services $16,024
  Park maintenance & utilities $7,060
Complete copies of the city’s preliminary budget

draft are available to the public at City Hall.

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