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Whitefish Council approves $44.2 million budget

September 3, 2018

Whitefish City Council on Aug. 20 approved a 3.2 million or 8 percent higher than last year’s budget.

This is mostly due to an increase in capital projects, the addition of new staff positions, increases in wages and health benefits and a significant increase in interfund transfers, according to City Manager Adam Hammatt.

The budget includes adding four full-time positions in the city along with adding additional seasonal workers in the Parks and Recreation Department. The budget includes a 4 percent increase in wages for all city employees and increased costs of medical insurance as the city will cover 3.4 percent of the 3.7 percent increase in premiums.

Under the budget, the average home valued at 57 per year, according to the city. While the city is levying the same number of mills as last fiscal year, increases in collections from the city’s maintenance districts is driving the increase in the total tax bill.

Councilor Katie Williams thanked city staff for their work on the budget.

“Thank you to staff for working so diligently to make sure that you followed Council’s direction that we did not have large impacts this year to residences,” she said. “We voted not to increase the tax levy and I’m very happy that we ended with an increase of less than 4 million total in resort tax last fiscal year, resulting in a tax rebate of 3.78 per household. An increase in both street lighting districts for residential about 50 cents per household and about 2.86 per household.

A large increase is planned for the stormwater assessment of 40,000. However, the percent of the budget is 14.76 percent compared with last year’s at 15 percent.

This decrease in cash reserves is mostly due to increased capital expenditures and keeping the number of mills levied the same as the prior year, according to Hammatt.

“While the goal of the city is to increase cash reserves against a future day of need, this year’s reduction in the cash reserves is due to the one-time increase in capital expenditures in the Parks and Recreation fund to address the immediate needs of our urban forestry program,” Hammatt notes in his budget memo.

Hammatt said it will be important to build cash reserves back up to maintain service levels during the next recession. Hammatt says he recommends the city establish reserves in the 20 percent to 25 percent of annual expenditures range.

The ending cash balance for the FY19 budget is 1.8 million to $2.3 million, he says.

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