City OKs bulked-up 2004 budget

Despite early indications that 2004 would be a tight year for the City of Port Orchard, the city council has approved a $4.9 million budget that includes just about every supplementary item requested.

City treasurer Kris Tompkins credits primarily sales tax for the turn-around. Although property tax projections for 2004 are fully $36,000 beyond what was initially expected, the city estimates it will also take in nearly $200,000 in additional sales taxes through the end of 2003 and over 2004.

The projected increase in 2003 alone will add an estimated $92,000 in unanticipated income to the city’s coffers.

Those increases, paired with the extra property tax monies and assorted other income, means the city can afford more than $280,000 in extras it didn’t expect to have money for. The supplementary items, which range from an evidence-drying cabinet for the police department to a part-time accounting clerk, are non-essential expenses that function as a sort of wish list for the various departments.

“They are all quite needed things, but perhaps things we can live without,” said Councilman Bob Geiger, who chairs the City Council finance committee.

Tompkins said the unexpected approval of the items will likely come as a pleasant surprise to department heads who were earlier told to tighten their belts. She said all the departments this year submitted pared-down budgets in expectation of another lean budget cycle.

The municipal court, in particular, Tompkins said, will be thrilled to finally have a permanent court security officer — a position it has been lacking for some time.

“(A security officer) has been shown to be very influential on the behavior of people in the court,” Geiger said.

Still, not everything on the list is getting an unqualified green light. Because the city is making a rather significant growth assumption for sales tax in 2004, another $74,000 in supplemental items have been marked as delayed purchases.

Tompkins said the city will have a better idea whether sales tax revenues have followed its predictions in the second half of the year. At that point, she said, city officials will make the final decision on which items get bought and which get cut from the budget.

The delayed items include a new building inspector vehicle, improvements to the City Council chambers’ audio-visual system and replacement public works equipment.

Items left off of the to-be-funded roster include City Hall photos, a salary survey and lighting for the Bay Street marquee.

Tompkins said there is reason to believe projected revenues will live up to expectations. For the first time in a while, she pointed out, there will be at least two U.S. Navy ships docked in Bremerton for nearly the entire year. That alone, in the opinion of the council, could be enough to push sales tax beyond the $2 million expected.

Nevertheless, Tompkins said the council’s decision to approve nearly all the supplemental budget requests does not indicate a change in the city’s fiscal policies.

She said even if revenue projections do hit all their projected marks, her department still intends to present conservative budgets to the council — just in case.

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