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NB holds line on spending

NORTH BEND - The city of North Bend will have to do business next year with less money than it did in 2001, and the apparent passage of Initiative 747 is not going to help much, either.

The preliminary outline for the city's 2002 budget was introduced at a special meeting of the City Council last week, and City Treasurer Elena Montgomery said anti-tax initiatives and the building moratorium have forced the city to cut down on spending.

"We are stretching the dollar more this year because of the anti-tax laws and because of our lack of water rights," Montgomery said.

The city of North Bend plans to spend $14,662,883 next year, compared to the $15,270,478 expected to be spent by the end of this year.

Montgomery cited initiatives 695 and 747 as causing the city to lose needed tax revenue. She warned that the passage of I-747 would only add to the woes inflicted by I-695, an initiative that limited the amount of taxes on vehicle registrations, which she said caused the city to lose about $55,000 a year in revenue despite some added help from the state Legislature.

Montgomery predicts I-747, which limits the amount property taxes can be raised to 1 percent per year, would cost the city as much as $40,000 next year.

She also said the building moratorium, which has been imposed since April 1999 due to a lack of water rights within the city, has limited the amount of money received as a result of building fees and permits.

Montgomery added that one of the priorities next year will be to focus on finding a solution to the building moratorium. Cooperation with the neighboring Sallal Water District was highlighted as a potential relief from the moratorium.

The city treasurer went on to say North Bend will not raise utility rates, which now account for more than half of its revenue. She said the city also plans to finish the public works maintenance building, revise the comprehensive plan and develop a master plan for a new public safety building in North Bend.

Of the $11.62 North Bend residents pay in property taxes for every $1,000 of assessed value, Montgomery said only $1.75 of that goes to the city, with the remaining money going to the state, King County and the Snoqualmie Valley School District.

Although Montgomery noted the city would spend less money, she stressed that the number and types of services North Bend will offer next year will be significantly similar to services offered this year.

"Frankly, this year's budget is very similar to last year's," Montgomery said.

The only program cuts Montgomery pointed out were to both city beautification programs - the flower basket program and the park grooming program. North Bend Mayor Joan Simpson, who initiated the programs, said she was sad to see them go but realized they had to be cut.

"It's disappointing," Simpson said. "I think those programs really helped the city."

Simpson was also saddened by the probable passage of I-747, which she said would make it harder for governments to pay the rising costs of union contracts, and cost-of-living increases for their employees. Although the mayor said the city has worked hard to grow reserves for the future, she said the rainy days they were saving for may soon be upon them.

"I think it (I-747) limits the things that are important that we can provide." Simpson said. "Some hard choices will have to be made in the future."

Montgomery warned that the actual budget may be even tighter than her predictions since some of the projections were formulated before the Sept. 11 attacks.

The 2002 budget for the city of North Bend will be discussed at the next City Council meeting on Nov. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mount Si Senior Center.

You can reach Ben Cape at (425) 888-2311, or e-mail him at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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