The costs of running the City of Bethel are rising. City council's proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2020 allocates $450,000 more for gravel road maintenance than in years past. The police department’s budget has increased by $1,194,003 in the past three years. The proposed budget for water and sewer has jumped $1,088,267 in just the past year.
Acting City Manager Bill Howell suggested the reason for the increases are “the new subdivisions coming online, and just more people being in town.”
Revenues could also increase this year. The city could see new money from marijuana sales taxes, Amazon’s online sales tax, and a potential second liquor store. However, none of those potential revenues are projected in next year’s budget.
“We have no idea how much they’re going to sell,” Howell said. “We don’t know.”
There are many parts of the proposed budget the new city administration cannot answer for.
“I’m not the manager that designed this budget,” Howell stated.
Howell arrived in his role as acting city manager in April. Finance Director Christine Blake started her position just a few months before him. She didn’t want to comment on a budget process that she is still learning.
The administrators inherited this year’s budget process and the audit for last year. That may explain why the audit still isn’t finished; it’s several months late. That makes the fourth straight year Bethel has been late on its audit.
Last year, the city didn’t have a finance director during its budget process.
“Is the new finance director and the new city manager really having to spool up as quickly as possible? You betcha,” Howell explained. “We’re reading a lot of documents and trying to get caught up, but I think we’re gonna be okay.”
City council will hold its final budget meeting on June 6, 2019, and will vote on whether to pass it at the next regular meeting on June 11, 2019. That’s the last regular meeting before the June 15 budget deadline. On that date, council has to stop amending the budget and the document goes into effect whether the council is finished with it or not.