Port Angeles City Council approves $108.03 million budget

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has approved a $108.03 million budget for 2018.

Council members voted 6-1 Tuesday — with Councilman Lee Whetham opposed for procedural reasons — to adopt the budget for next year.

The balanced budget includes $373,500 in one-time savings that staff identified in an 18-month-long planning process to offset an expected loss in utility tax collections from the curtailment of the McKinley Paper Co. mill on Ediz Hook.

McKinley purchased the mill from Nippon Paper Industries USA in March and plans to reopen the facility in December 2018 making containerboard from recycled cardboard.

“I think the staff has done very well in a challenging year putting together a budget that works for us,” Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd said.

The city’s general fund budget for day-to-day operations has $19.27 million in budgeted revenue and $19.81 million in expenses. That would leave $4.93 million in reserve and meet a council directive of having a 25 percent reserve fund balance.

The total budget includes the general fund, other funds, utilities and capital projects. It was reduced by 3.4 percent from last year, city officials said.

“We’ve dropped it $11 million in the last four years,” Councilman Dan Gase said.

The approved budget shows a reduction of 2.75 full-time positions and a 3 percent cost-of-living raise for union and non-union employees.

It adds four firefighter/emergency medical technician positions, transportation projects and such “community enhancement” projects as new public restrooms, wayfinding signs, and tables and chairs downtown.

In a Tuesday hearing, Marolee Smith complained that the City Council was prepared to consider approving the budget before passing the 3 percent raise on the consent agenda.

Mayor Patrick Downie skipped the consent agenda to accommodate extended public comment for testimony on raised barriers for the Eighth Street bridges. The public hearing on the 2018 budget began as scheduled at 6:30 p.m.

“How can you pass a budget when you haven’t already passed the request for the 3 percent increase for the employees, the non-bargaining employees?” Smith asked.

“And how can you pass a budget when you haven’t already had the hearing regarding the utility rate increase, because that is part of the budget.”

The council will consider a 1.28 percent utility rate increase after a second reading Dec. 19.

“Isn’t this sort of getting the cart way before the horse?” Smith asked.

“Shouldn’t those things be addressed first?”

Whetham thanked Smith for speaking out on the council’s rules of procedure.

“I would point out that tonight is the exception rather than the rule,” Whetham said of the order of the agenda.

“We really only set aside 15 minutes for public comment.

“The mayor, out of generosity for the community, went over that allotment.”

As a remedy, Whetham suggested that council revert back to the consent agenda before voting on the budget.

“I guess I would hold the line on that technicality, Mr. Mayor,” Whetham said.

Downie said he stood by his decision to extend the public comment period and to proceed with the vote on the budget.

After the meeting, Whetham said he supported the proposed budget and voted no strictly on procedural grounds.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56450, or at rollikainen@peninsula dailynews.com.

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