Tax hike benefits small in Coupeville

A small property tax increase in a small town results in a small increase in revenue, as shown in the Town of Coupeville’s 2003 budget adopted last week.

In approving the budget, the town council included a 1 percent increase in property taxes. That’s the most allowable without a vote of the people under Initiative 747. The 1 percent tax hike will result in only $2,347 in additional revenue for the town of some 1,200 souls. That doesn’t even come close to covering the cost of inflation, which would require $25,816 in additional spending.

To balance the budget, the council followed the mayor’s recommendation and dipped into the cash reserves for another $124,652. Without those reserves, the budget included $90,000 more in expenditures than revenues, according to Mayor Nancy Conard’s written statement to the council dated Nov. 26.

The move to spend part of the town’s reserves is “buying us a year,” Conard explained Friday. Next year she will lead efforts to further reduce spending prior to an even tougher budgeting process for 2004.

“We’ve got $90,000 to cut,” she said. “It’s hard to get there without reducing staff.” Since there’s not much staff to cut in town, employees are already discussing cost saving measures. “We’re trying to reinvent the way we’re doing things,” Conard said.

The new budget calls for 2003 total general fund expenditures of $1,314,259, down from $1,475,318 in 2002.

Conard described changes in the specific funds as “status quo.” The only increase in employment regards the utility plant which will be operated by two city workers rather than an outside contractor.

Costs are up pretty much across-the-board. The town council expects to spend $8,400 on its own operations in 2003, compared to $7,700 in 2002; police department spending will increase by roughly $33,000 to $456,720; finance and administration, which includes salaries and benefits for the mayor, clerk-treasurer and two support staff, will rise to $177,591 from $161,165; and planning costs will rise from $99,400 to $103,047.

Planned capital outlays are down from $67,661 in 2002 to $25,000 in 2003, the latter figure consumed entirely by a new police car.

Hopes are to finish 2003 with a minimum general fund ending balance of $100,000.

Various other funds, from capital improvements to streets to water, sewer and debt service, bring the total 2003 budget to $3,731,255.

Although local tax income is tight, progress will not be stopped in Coupeville in 2003 thanks to money from outside sources. Scheduled for next year is reconstruction of North Main St. from the Catholic church to the waterfront, and construction of a path along Sixth Street.

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