Residents have their chance to speak out on the city of Yakima’s proposed 2013 budget at a Tuesday hearing.
The council starts hearings at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 129 N. Second St.; the business meeting starts at 6 p.m.
The council will also hold hearings on a property tax increase and a proposal to shrink the Downtown Yakima Business Improvement District, which collects an assessment from business and property owners to pay for cleanup and beautification services.
The 2013 budget is calculated at $61.4 million, up 2.4 percent from the projected final figure for 2012.
The budget saves the most money — $730,000 — by changing how the city calculates personnel cost. Instead of budgeting every authorized position at the full annual amount, the city will deduct 2 percent in total personnel costs to reflect positions open throughout the year from vacancies.
City Manager Tony O’Rourke has calculated that another $304,000 would come from both union and nonunion employees. About 90 of the city’s employees are not represented. That final number is dependent on negotiations. Last year, the council turned down the police and fire contracts once before securing a better deal, avoiding the cost of arbitration for both sides.
Another $163,000 in savings would come from holding open or delaying hiring for three positions in information technology, public works and community development.
And $220,000 would be freed up by shifting three airport firefighters to other vacancies in the fire department. A federal requirement for airport staffing during flight times will be met through overtime or staffing adjustments.
O’Rourke proposes that the city take $350,000 from the general fund to cover debt service on a $5 million bond that would be put toward street repair.
The citywide pavement condition index — a measure of whether the streets are in good shape — stands at 54 on a scale of 100. If repairs don’t start soon, that number dips dramatically to 19, effectively leaving the city with too big of a hole to climb out of, public works officials say.
The bond — which would fund repairs across the city — gives the city a chance to prove to residents that it can effectively deal with the street problem.
The council is not expected to vote on the budget at Tuesday’s meeting. The budget has to be approved by the end of the year.
A separate public hearing will be held on a proposal to increase the property tax by 1 percent as allowed by state law. That would bring the levy collection to about $17.1 million, including increases allowed for assessments on new construction and state-assessed property. The 1 percent increase amounts to about $166,000. New construction added about $141,000. Those figures are included in the general fund budget for 2013.
A third hearing will be held on a proposal to reduce the size of the 77-block downtown improvement district.
Under the revised approach, the assessment zone will focus on the downtown core, eliminating businesses in the outer zone. Some of those had complained they paid the same for less service.
O’Rourke said the switch will reduce the coverage area by 50 percent, but cut revenue by only 30 percent, to about $160,000. The cleanup services covered by that revenue are provided by an outside contractor. O’Rourke said the city could revise the contract or consider taking over the service next year.
Businesses deemed vacant would have their assessment reduced by 25 percent to recognize that they were making less money. The council tussled with whether to offer a discount to churches and nonprofits or to stop charging them, but left the assessment in place.
At Tuesday’s meeting, the council will also consider an ordinance to change downtown parking regulations.
Parking in city lots would be extended to four hours, and the city would no longer offer permits for long-term parking in those spaces. Currently, drivers must pay after the first two hours. O’Rourke has said that private lots downtown can absorb the long-term users.
The idea behind the changes is to increase circulation of people using downtown. Critics had said the city’s current parking system — which required drivers to pull a parking ticket from a machine and put it on the dashboard — was confusing. Drivers were irritated to sometimes find they had to pay a parking ticket because they hadn’t realized how the lots worked.
The ordinances also proposes to do away with the city parking commission and turn that authority back to the council.
• Mark Morey can be reached at 509-577-7671 or firstname.lastname@example.org.