There will be a public hearing at the next Council meeting – September 4 at 7p.m. – regarding the proposed City of Kuna budget for fiscal year 2013. This budgeting process was a trying experience; Kuna is in a difficult position because we lack a large commercial base to help cover the cost of running our City. While most cities have at least close to an even ratio of business versus residential tax income, Kuna’s statistics are more along the lines of 20% commerical and 80% residential tax base. Increasing commercial activity and attracting new businesses needs to be a priority moving forward, as it will not only enhance our City but is also the only real way to generate enough tax revenue to do anything above simply breaking even each year.
There are a few budget items worth explanation, though I am happy to answer questions about any individual line item — please comment below or email me at email@example.com.
First of all, I took seriously the promises I made while campaigning. I want to ensure Kuna government is accountable to the residents and is acting in their best interests. Along those lines, I took pains to examine the budget in great detail and scrutinize many items. I was able to identify nearly $7,000 in savings by cutting out some unnecessary expenditures, requiring the City to be a little leaner in some areas, and making sure citizens are not paying for things more appropriately paid for by City employees. This may not seem like a lot of money, but in fact these were virtually the only cuts made from the budget.
The biggest change in the budget was an increase to the contract with Ada County Sheriff’s Office, who provide our police services. Their budget went up about 13% primarily due to pay and benefits increases approved by the Ada County Commissioners, but it also included a change in service vehicles from the Ford Crown Victoria (which is no longer being manufactured) to the Chevy Tahoe. The pay and benefits increase was a much-needed longevity incentive — last year, ACSO lost six officers to the Boise Police Department, who offer a more lucrative compensation package. Four of those officers worked in Kuna, resulting in the equivalent of nearly $500,000 of training walking out the door (not to mention their combined law enforcement experience of nearly 50 years!). The increase approved by Commissioners rewards employees for staying with ACSO with pay increases at the five, 10, and 15-year marks. The cost for our contract with ACSO is a pretty fixed item because it’s not a for-profit arrangement — we get billed the actual cost of policing services. Therefore, if we want the price to be lower, we have to decide what particular service we want to eliminate. We’re still at lowered staffing levels from severe cuts that occurred a few years ago, and any signficant cut would result in either the part-time clerk position being eliminated (meaning no public access to the Police Station) or losing one of ony two detectives stationed in Kuna. These would be significant losses and I didn’t think reducing already-tight police services would benefit Kuna residents — not to mention the fact that we need to have safe, pleasant community if we want to attract more businesses. Chief Aldrich scoured his budget and was able to find a little savings — he’ll be taking a patrol car out of the standard rotation, saving the City about $30,000. His efforts in finding this savings were greatly appreciated, and an example of the successful partnership we’ve fostered.
Another big change was the Mayor’s request to increase City employee salaries. If the budget is approved, City employees will see a 2.5% pay increase, with another 2.5% set aside in a merit/incentive pool to reward exemplary work.
A few other items of note:
- A new full-time position was created in the Parks Department; this will replace a current part-time position, and should save money for the City overall.
- We budgeted money to overhaul the City’s website, which is currently pretty outdated and not very user-friendly. We hope to make it much more navigable and beneficial for residents.
- Money was budgeted to undertake a pilot project for the installation of a new type of streetlight – this will replace 10 current streetlights with the newer version, and allow us to see how cost- and energy-efficient they are. It is expected that if we can replace all the streetlights in Kuna, we’ll save nearly $85,000 each year!
In order to fund these and other items, and to conclude with a balanced budget, it was necessary for Council to levy a tax increase. Thankfully, the increase to the average family (with a home valued at approximately $106,000) is relatively small — about $20, or only $10 if the Homeowner’s Exemption is taken.