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North Bend eyes budget with caution Most city revenues stay strong

Thanks to “diverse and secure revenue sources,” North Bend hasn’t been hit as hard as other city governments by the sluggish national economy, but officials are still keeping a watchful eye on spending, said City Administrator Duncan Wilson.

Despite the nationwide economic downturn, sales tax revenues in North Bend are down by just 1 percent from last year, Wilson said.

Retail may have been buoyed by the federal government’s economic stimulus package, but Wilson was optimistic that sales would stay strong in North Bend.

“The outlet mall seems to be a refuge for shoppers in times when budgets are tight because they’re looking for those great deals,” he said.

A combination of strong sales tax revenue, and taxes on property, utilities, and business and occupation, have kept the coffers in relatively good shape, Wilson said.

Still, the city will put together its 2009 budget with caution.

“We have to figure out what the limitations will be on discretionary spending, and we’ll be looking at everything carefully,” Wilson said.

While Wilson didn’t expect the city to eliminate any jobs, he said it would put off hiring discretionary staff and consultants like building inspectors and permit coordinators until 2010.

And with fuel prices soaring, city administration has asked the Public Works department to cut its fuel consumption by 15 percent, Wilson said.

“We want to get as efficient as possible, but we run pretty lean as it is, and we have for years,” he said.

One revenue source, however, has been notably weak this year. Low cash flow from the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET), which funds some capital projects, forced the city to postpone improvements on Pickett Avenue and the construction of a tot lot at Torguson Park. Real estate hasn’t been moving the way planners expected as they made their projections last year: The city anticipated taking in about $330,000 in REET funding in 2008, but had only collected about $56,000 by the end of June, Wilson said. He noted that REET revenues can change quickly in any given month, particularly when large property sales finalize.

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