Coupeville approves budget 4-1

Despite concerns raised about a 1 percent property tax increase, the Coupeville Town Council approved the town’s 2009 budget last week.

The property increase will bring in an extra $3,122 to the town’s $5.3 million overall budget. Given the poor economy, some residents didn’t want the town to approve the modest tax increase, which is the most allowed by law.

“To me, it sends the wrong message,” Coupeville resident Jerome Rosen said at the Nov. 25 meeting, opining that the increase is a public relations mistake.

He also paraphrased two letters, sent by Will Jones and Roxallanne Medley, during the meeting.

One council member noted the small cost households would have to pay to make up the tax increase.

“It’s barely $3 a household and that is a rough estimate,” Councilman Bob Clay said during the meeting. Incidentally, if council members had rejected the tax increase, state law allows town’s to “bank” that 1 percent and officials tack on an additional increase in the future.

Councilman Jim Phay pointed out that the extra money won’t go very far. When the town had to pay for repairs on the sidewalk in front of the post office, it cost $3,700.

Councilwoman Ann Dannhauer wanted the council to delay approval of the budget to provide time to consider the public testimony presented at the meeting and to wait for the results of the current state audit. State auditors are examining records from part of 2005, all of 2006 and all of 2007 and a report should be ready by the end of the year.

No other council member would second Dannhauer’s motion. The council voted 4-1 to adopt the 2009 budget. Members Molly Hughes, Dianne Binder, Phay and Clay voted for the motion while Dannhauer voted against it.

Unlike other jurisdictions on the island, the town of Coupeville approved a balanced budget without having to resort to any layoffs.

Mayor Nancy Conard cited the fact staff overestimate expenses and underestimate revenues just to be safe.

The new budget includes a 4 percent cost of living increase and an insurance benefit increase for town employees.

While sales tax collections have been higher than budgeted in recent years, officials decided against budgeting a sales tax increase for 2009. For example, the town budgeted receiving $300,000 in sales tax collections in 2007, but received $456,000. The increase can be attributed to the sales tax paid for the construction of the new high school.

The budget leaves the town with a $251,000 reserve, which is higher than the required $100,000 reserve. Conard said the extra amount should be enough to get through any challenges that may arise in the coming year.

Council members were generally satisfied with the budget they approved.

“We are very fortunate to have been prudent in the past and this budget is really prudent,” Clay said.

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