Index adjusts budget to I-747

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

INDEX — Mayor Kem Hunter is asking for $169,813 on which to run the town in 2002.

It’s a much smaller budget than last year’s $429,337. But that budget included five grants for street repaving and drainage projects that totaled about $280,000.

And after the passage of Initiative 747, he’s lowered his property tax increase request from 6 percent to 1 percent. That means less in reserves and less for other capital improvements. A final vote on the proposed 2002 budget is expected by the town council at a meeting at 7 p.m. Dec. 3.

The budget calls for a general fund of $72,334 and a street fund of $12,724. The remainder is allotted to debt service of $7,000, water fund at $52,507 and garbage fund at $25,248.

In order to make that happen, Hunter suggested an increase of

6 percent in the property tax levy, planned to bring in another $1,168 more than in 2001. But Hunter said the council is more likely to settle for a 1 percent increase to meet the regulations of I-747.

The council is also expected to address an ordinance that sets out salaries for town employees, including the town clerk, the utility clerk, a laborer and carpenter, an animal control officer and a water distribution manager.

About a 4 percent cost-of-living wage increase is included in the budget for town employees. All positions are part time.

Hunter said the maintenance worker’s hours have been cut from 26 to 20 hours a week.

The salary ordinance calls for the utility clerk’s hours to be reduced "in the event of fiscal necessity" from 16 to 12 hours a week.

Hunter said one of the issues the city is looking at in its budgeting is the cost to the city of the required biannual audit by the state. The state charges $8,000 for each review.

"That works out to be about $50 per each resident of Index," he said. "Why such a high cost?"

He said if audits in all cities in Washington were based on a similar cost per resident, Seattle’s audit would cost $25 million.

"They’d never stand for that," he said.

The council planned for the $8,000 audit in its budget, but also plans to ask the state to reconsider how it charges cities for those audits.

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

or send e-mail to moriarty@heraldnet.com.

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