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Snoqualmie mulls 'O5 budget

SNOQUALMIE - It looks like the City of Snoqualmie will stay out of the red for 2005.

The City Council successfully smoothed out all the numbers at its final public hearing on the 2005 budget at its Nov. 22 meeting.

"We are eager to report we've balanced the budget without raising rates," said Janet Carr, city treasurer. "And, we are able to maintain current staffing levels at the present levels of service."

The overall budget is currently estimated at $22,662,258. The general fund operating budget is 17 percent higher than the current general fund budget and 14.5 percent of that increase is due to higher health care benefits and employee salaries. The other 2.5 percent covers operation and maintenance within the departments.

The budget lines for streets and water have grown due to the growth of the city. Public works, for the most part, funds itself because of utility rates.

"Our challenges aren't so much streets as they are keeping up with the city's growth rate in terms of water usage and water treatment facilities," said Maria Henriksen, chair of public works for the city.

She said the biggest public works items, which include water, waste water, sewer and streets, haven't changed much from this year to 2005 and that all the numbers are still strictly preliminary.

"This past year has been much busier," Henriksen said. "We did double the new hookups because construction has been progressing so quickly. We're not expecting to do quite as many next year."

Henriksen said there were nearly 600 new water hookups completed this year.

The biggest thing happening for streets this year will be a project to connect Tokul Road to the Salish Lodge parking lot. The city is hoping for grant money to cover most of that cost. The street fund is estimated at $199,800.

The major water project is the water treatment plant upgrade to address taste issues, Henriksen said.

Police Chief Jim Schaffer said the police budget will be just 5.1 percent higher in 2005 to cover the cost of labor increases or "cost-of-living."

"I can't say it looks good," Schaffer said. "We lost an administrative assistant due to budget cuts. We're going to have to cover with other personnel until we can recover from that."

The fire department, meanwhile, is adding an administrative assistant and seems to be in tip-top shape. Snoqualmie Fire Department Chief Bob Rowe said staffing levels will remain the same in 2005 as in 2004, with the addition of the assistant. He also noted bond payments for the new station on Snoqualmie Parkway, which is due to open next spring, are doing just fine.

Overall, Rowe said things "absolutely" look good.

"Until the casino comes on, then things might heat up a little bit," he said, referring to a casino the Snoqualmie Tribe hopes to build outside Snoqualmie.

Snoqualmie has agreed to supplement the casino fire and police services once it is built, but the Tribe is still waiting on final approval from the federal government for the project.

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