Officials wrangle with city budget |

Officials wrangle with city budget

Christina M. Currie

The city of Craig’s 2006 budget will look nothing like it did Friday morning.

During the Craig City Council’s day-long budget workshop Friday, $216,500 in expenditures was added and $32,000 was cut.

Council members agreed to add 1 1/2 positions — something the city hasn’t done in several years.

“We’re doing more and asking more from employees with fewer people,” Mayor Don Jones said. “We’re on a fine line now as far as where to go.”

Community Development Director Dave Costa will get a full-time person to help him with an increasing number of building inspections. The police department will add another patrol officer, bringing the total to 12, and the parks and recreation department will be able to cut overtime expenses at the city pool by hiring a part-time assistant manager.

Adding a person in the community development department will cost the city $105,000, including the salary, benefits and vehicle.

But, Council members said the need is there.

“I feel it’s time,” Councilor Bill Johnston said. “I just see the necessity. Dave can’t do what I feel the future’s going to bring.”

Costa is the city’s only building inspector. There were four in the late ’70s.

The council also is looking at a proposal to start charging fees for each step of the subdivision review process. Those fees could help offset an additional person, Costa said.

The number of building permits issued in the past four years has remained steady, but their complexity has increased. The annual value of construction has increased from $3,551,882 in 2001 to $7,085,967 in 2004.

In the police department, calls for service have increased 25 percent in the past few years. Another officer will decrease the department’s $60,000 budget for overtime by $10,000, but that’s not the primary reason for adding another position. Council members said they’re concerned about officer morale and an increasing need for officers.

“From all that I’ve heard, including the human factor, and I don’t think business is going down, I think it would be prudent for us to put another officer on,” Johnston said.

That position would cost the city $76,500 including salary, benefits and a vehicle. The cost is lower than it would normally be, Police Chief Walt Vanatta said, because the department already has a vehicle that person could use. It’s being used by the code enforcement officer, who would get a small, used pickup in exchange.

Part-time help would reduce the 268 overtime hours the pool manager logged in the summer, Parks and Recreation Department Director Dave Pike said. He estimated a part-time person would cost $29,000 to $35,000 including benefits.

He, too, will be evaluating pool fees to determine if an increase would help offset that expense.

Before the changes, the city’s 2006 general fund budget was at $7,796,655, 2 percent less than last year. The total budget — including water, wastewater, trash and other enterprise funds — was $20,733,875.

City staff members will make the changes requested by the council and evaluate where the budget is. They’re also working on several scenarios for wage increases. A 1 percent increase for all employees would cost $51,000. The employees of several departments have said they’re willing to accept smaller raises if their health insurance costs don’t increase.

The budget for 2006 shows a 36 percent increase in health insurance costs.

The budget is still in draft form. It won’t go before the City Council for approval and public comment until November.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or

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