Camas budget hearing is Nov. 18

Council will soon decide on increase in tax levy, use of banked capacity

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On Monday, Nov. 18, the city of Camas will hold a public hearing on its proposed $66.7 million 2014 budget.

To fund the budget as recommended, the City Council will need to boost its property tax levy and use its banked taxing capacity, which has accumulated since 2009 because the city did not use its 1 percent annual property tax levy increase that is allowable by state law.

The amount of money the city can increase its levy by each year is limited to 1 percent of the previous year’s levy. The city is also limited by a statutory maximum rate of $3.60 per $1,000 of assessed value.

With the addition of the 1 percent increase plus banked capacity, the city’s 2014 levy rate would be $3.55 per $1,000 of assessed property value. This would bring the city $9.943 million in property tax revenue, which includes $216,500 from the 1 percent increase plus new construction and $650,000 from the banked capacity.

The current 2013 rate is 5 cents higher at $3.60.

[The amount each taxpayer will pay] varies based on what happens with different assessed valuations, but that got me very excited that we can potentially, hopefully, address a few things that need to be addressed, and still have taxes go down,” said Mayor Scott Higgins. “That is a really positive message.”

If no tax levy increases are implemented, however, the rate would be $3.28 per $1,000 and bring in $9.202 million.

“The rate is going down. There is no question about that,” Higgins said. “The rate is going down, so everyone in the community is going to pay less of a tax rate this year, than they did last year. That’s the facts.”

The 2014 proposed Camas city budget includes a number of “decision packages,” which total $842,692. The decision packages would be funded with money from the city’s general fund reserves, as well as monies received from the banked capacity and the 1 percent rate increase.

Some of those projects include street repair and maintenance — $650,000; City Hall repair and maintenance — $60,000; library repairs and maintenance — $77,500; replacement of Camas Police Department uniform belts and ballistic vests — $10,880; and Camas Cemetery care — $30,000. In addition, the funding would cover reinstating finance department staffing and support — $101,558; adding a planning manager position — $101,540; updating the Growth Management Act comprehensive plan — $100,000; updating and replacing technology — $137,000; and buying new playground equipment and repairing tennis court and sports field — $90,760.

Approximately $25.8 million in capital projects are also included in the budget. Funding is generated from debt, grants, utility rates, excise taxes and impact fees, and the general fund.

“These are things that will change our community for the better,” said Finance Director Cathy Huber Nickerson.

Among them are construction of a water transmission main and treatment facility — $6.3 million; Lacamas Lake Lodge — $500,000; Heritage Park boat launch — $300,000; Northwest 38th Avenue phase 2 — $3.6 million; Northwest Friberg Street — $3.87 million; light signal intersection at Northwest Norwood and 38th Avenue at the entrance to Highway 14 west — $290,000; and Goodwin Road trail head improvements — $70,000.

Councilman Don Chaney said the 2014 budget addresses the city’s needs, now and in the future.

“I have long held that budgets should be built on need and not want,” said Chaney, a former Camas police chief. “I’m convinced that this budget is built on need. I include in that need the vision to look at infrastructure, because it’s critical if we are to continue to be viable in the future.”

Finance department officials originally designed the budget with a 17 percent general fund reserve for operating expenses. According to Nickerson, however, that percentage will instead be bumped up to 20 — a decision is directly related to the fact that a new city administrator will likely be joining the city in January. He or she will succeed Nina Regor, who died in October following an illness diagnosed a few months earlier.

“We want to make sure we are setting up our next administration to be able to take that budget and put their fingerprints on it, and that is what this allows to happen,” Higgins said. “This allows a new administration to come in and say, look, we are going to have some possibilities to make some changes.”

The City Council is expected to approve a 2014 budget at its Monday, Dec. 2 regular meeting.