LONG BEACH - The Long Beach City Council has been working overtime. On Monday and Tuesday they held meetings to examine the city budget and on Wednesday they held their regular city council meeting.
There will be a public meeting concerning the budget at the regular city council meeting on Dec. 1, when they hope to approve the finalized budget.
"It was a fun process this year," said city Finance Director David Glasson.
The meetings included a PowerPoint slide show presented by City Administrator Robert Strope. And the good news is the city is still in the black.
The cost of health care benefits for city employees once more increased this year, not an uncommon occurrence given the rapidly rising cost of health care. Currently the city covers the entire cost of employees' health care benefits. The city is considering changing over to a system where the employees pay for a percentage of their health care benefits, as in a co-pay system. The city staff is exploring options, but believe the initial employee responsibility will be approximately 2 percent.
Another large cost to the city was security for public events such as the Washington State International Kite Festival and Rod Run. They are considering reducing the amount of security at the events, and approaching the city of Ilwaco to help with funding. In 2004 $20,894.60 was spent on festival security, which was below the anticipated cost.
Long Beach Police Chief Flint Wright asked that the council wait before reducing the police presence for the Kite Festival until they could evaluate the security needs for the festival in a year when the weather is pleasant. He believes the bad weather during recent festivals might also have dampened boisterous behavior, and does not want to be shorthanded when the sun shines.
To increase security, the city has set aside $10,000 for additional surveillance cameras for the downtown area. The proposed cameras would have better resolution in the dark, making it easier to identify and prosecute criminals. The current cameras would be moved to areas with more lighting.
The city also would like to add streetlights to the city, and has set aside $5,000 for that purpose. No streetlights have been added to the city in several years. The city staff said they would like residents input on the most effective locations for additional streetlights to increase public safety.
The city also set aside funds to purchase a color copier for city hall. In the long run it will save the city costs on copier repair, and the city will no longer have to contract out for color or 8 1/2 by 11 copies. The new copier will also increase city employee efficiency and could potentially reduce healthcare costs by limiting headaches.
In a move to improve efficiency, the city also set aside funds to hire a part-time building inspector and add an economic development/promotional position. They anticipate a salary, including benefits, of $14,391 for the building inspector.
Updating the city code was also a subject of discussion. The city has set aside $10,000 for codification of the city code. The process will ensure that the local code does not conflict with any state or local laws and conforms to legal requirements. The code has not been updated since 1988.
For a complete version of the proposed city budget, stop by Long Beach City Hall on Bolstad Ave., and experience first hand why the city needs a new copier.