Tuesday, March 31, 2009 | 6:31 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
At a special budget meeting Tuesday morning, the Boulder City Council approved 3-2 a tentative budget for fiscal year 2010, which begins this July.
The city is bargaining with unions for police, fire, electrical and clerical workers in attempt to spread scheduled wage increases for next year over two years.
Councilwoman Linda Strickland and Councilman Travis Chandler voted against the tentative budget.
The change in wage increase scheduling, which was suggested by the council in a February budget meeting, is expected to save the city almost $500,000 by 2011, City Manager Vicki Mayes said.
At the meeting, the council entered a closed session with Mayes to discuss dealings with bargaining units for Police Protective Association and the Teamsters Local Union No. 14.
The city is expected to resolve the contract changes with the unions in time to submit its final budget by April 15. It will hold a public hearing on the final budget at 7 a.m. May 19 in City Hall, 401 California Ave.
The council expects the negotiations to include provisions that the city not lay off any unionized workers until July 2011, unless its general fund balance sinks lower than $1 million.
The city expects a $2.4 million ending balance in the 2010 general fund, which is $1 million less than the ending general fund budget for fiscal year 2009.
Before the next meeting, the city will attempt to shrink the proposed water rate increases for residential users.
The 2010 budget includes increases in electrical rates and property taxes scheduled to take effect in July and water rates that would go up in October.
The water rate was proposed at 10 percent for all users, but Mayor Roger Tobler said the city should lower that base increase to protect residents who use the least amount of water.
The proposed water increase was expected to raise an additional $420,000 to offset increased operating costs for electrical and water operations, the city's finance director Tim Inch said.
The council is expected to approve a 3/4 cent per kilowatt hour increase in electrical rates that would raise $1.125 million to pay for the city's share of Southern Nevada Water Authority's third waterline into Lake Mead and create a rate stabilization reserve account. The money would also go toward the city's increased operating costs.
The proposed property tax rate increase, expected to take effect in July, would be 21 cents per $100 assessed value, up from 20.38 cents, Inch said.
Mayes said of $5 million in city department requests for the 2010 budget, she approved only $1 million, $900,000 of which was related to labor costs.
"The bottom line is to assess what we really needed and what we really could do without," she said.
Mayes said the 2009 budget differs substantially from last year's budget. It is asking to spend $100 million more than the year before. Also, money saved by the city in some areas -- notably, in the elimination of the BCTV studio coordinator position and in some part-time employees -- will be spent in other areas. If the tentative budget is approved, the city will spend $150 more than in 2008, she said.
Chandler and Strickland said they did not approve of a $36,000 increase in the budget for a contracted BCTV employee. The two also said they disagreed the city should budget $12,000 extra to hire a replacement personnel administrator who would also act as assistant to the city manager.
Mayes said that combined position would serve "not to be a helper," but to recruit a new city manager if she were to leave the city.
She said after the June election instates two new City Council members, a majority of the council might want to replace her as city manager. In that event, she said, the city should be prepared by having an assistant who could help the City Council find a replacement.
Tobler suggested at the next meeting, the council discuss further the costs associated with the two positions, in addition to lowering the water rate increases and finalizing the union negotiations.