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City amends budget, builds up its reserves as future remains 'uncertain'
The Bremerton City Council unanimously approved a mid-year budget adjustment that reflects a better-than-expected tax stream.
The council’s approved budget tweaks reflect the fact that the city’s account balance at the end of 2011 came in with more than $552,661 than what was expected.
That extra cushion is good news for the city as it will likely lose some $135,000 in liquor excise sales taxes due to the state’s decision to withhold that money beginning in July.
In addition, some $100,000 from the extra ending fund balance will be allocated to the Bremerton Police Department to pay for its ongoing serial killer investigation. Lastly, the city is expected move $115,000 from 2011 into a contingency reserve fund.
Any fear of pending city staff reductions seem to have been overblown, at least for now.
Beyond the ending fund balance and the general fund, the city adjusted its overall budget by some $11,225,982. The vast majority of that change comes in the form of routine transfers from utility reserves into capital funds.
Bremerton Financial Services Director Becky Hasart said that the budget amendments will allow the city to move closer to its target of having an 8.5 percent reserve for the general fund. She also noted that department heads and city staff have done an excellent job of managing their budgets.
Hasart cautioned that the city’s future financial stability is anything but clear.
“I wish I could say that 2013 is starting to look better, but quite frankly it’s as uncertain as 2012 was,” Hasart said.
Last week’s 2012 budget adjustment, which builds the city’s reserve comes six months after the city council voted to raise more that $1 million in utility, property and parking taxes to get the then proposed city budget balanced before the New Year’s Eve deadline. None were confident then that the budget would survive the year.
No citizens offered testimony during the city’s budget hearing, but a few city councilors did weigh in.
“I just want to emphasize that we are putting money into the contingency fund balance which was one of our goals,” noted Councilman Adam Brockus.
Councilman Roy Runyon confirmed that no layoffs were necessary and inquired about a Gold Mountain Golf Course loan for equipment, a minor change in the city’s legal department and about ongoing efforts to monitor business licenses and property tax collection.
Councilman Greg Wheeler, meanwhile, asked Hasart about real estate excise tax collection and predictions, after expressing his pleasure regarding the amended budget.
“I like the way this budget is trued up and obviously it’s nice to have the extra revenue, particularly when it comes to beefing up our contingency reserve and ending fund balances,” he said. “Financially, its the responsible thing to do.”