The Ritzville Adams County Journal - Eastern Adams County's Only Independent Voice Since 1887

By Brandon Cline
Managing Editor 

Ritzville City Council approves 2019 budget


Last updated 2/1/2019 at 10:48am

The Ritzville City Council unanimously approved the 2019 city budget at its regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 18, putting an end to the annual budget conversations as 2019 draws closer.

Additional changes had been made to the budget since the previous council meeting on Dec. 4. Retirement pay projections for two city workers who are retiring in 2019—Public Works Director Larry Swift and a maintenance worker—is now reflected in the budget.

Swift has worked for the city since 1997, and has accrued over $21,000 worth of unused sick, vacation and holiday hours that can be paid out by the city when he retires. The maintenance worker has accrued over $12,000 of a possible maximum payout.

The maximum payouts includes the 1.5 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) and longevity incentive, and include estimations for current accumulated hours and eligible hours for 2019. Both employees began working for the city in the 1990s. The payouts will be drawn from a number of Public Works funds, which includes the parks, cemetery, water, sewer and streets funds.

Other changes to the 2019 budget included the creation of a new fund, Law Enforcement Contributions Fund 304, which was added to account for receipting donations and grant funds for law and justice purposes. Over $1,200 was transferred from the Memorial & Enhancement 303 Fund to the new fund, accounting for the total amount of grants and donations that were received in 2018.

A change was also made to the Water 401 Fund. Revenue for the water fund was increased by $500,000 in the 2019 budget to reflect adding the DWSRF-Supply and Storage funding that will be available in 2019.

The total award amount for 110 Funds remained at $200,000 as was discussed at the previous council meeting on Dec. 4. Jeanette Dewitt from the Empire Motel spoke during the meeting, seeking an explanation for why the motel wasn’t slotted to be awarded any of the $1,025 it requested in 110 Funds for its freeway signs.

Mayor Gary Cook explained that the council and the city have done a lot of research on the issue of disbursing tourism funds in an attempt to remain in compliance with the Revised Code of Washington (RCW), and said that there is a difference of opinion among councilmembers.

“You are not making your point on deaf ears,” said Mayor Cook. “Everyone here appreciates that, and we are somewhat divided on that opinion, I will admit. And I’m not trying to just give you flap.”

Mayor Cook said that the city has had to take a hard look at adhering to the existing law, and that it is a difficult issue because there can be different interpretations of the law as to defining what is a tourism facility. Mayor Cook also explained that the Best Western Bronco Inn’s request for similar signage was also declined by the city, showing that the city is remaining consistent with their interpretation and not just singling out one request.

Dewitt appreciated the city’s explanation and thanked them for allowing her to be heard, and said she was planning on taking this “to the top of the food chain” and get someone at the state level to listen. Mayor Cook encouraged Dewitt to look into that and do what she can, because the council would be “more than happy” to support her.

Following the discussion on 110 Funds, the motion was made and seconded to pass Ordinance 2121, which would adopt the 2019 budget for the City of Ritzville. All seven members of the council voted ‘aye,’ and the budget was adopted unanimously.

Following the council meeting, Mayor Cook talked with the Ritzville Journal about the budget, and explained how the city’s come a long way since he first took office.

“This is the end of my third year as mayor, and when I first came in one of the things that we wanted to do was kind of clean up the budget and get some things clarified,” said Mayor Cook. “It became a goal of mine to try and have the department heads have their own budget, be able to manage that budget on their own, and work with me on a monthly basis—which doesn’t always work out.”

Mayor Cook said this process allowed the department heads to get to know the revenues, expenditures and where they stand. So in theory, when it gets to be June and the year is 50 percent of the way over, they should not have exceeded 50 percent of expenses. Mayor Cook clarified that it isn’t as simple as that, and that the budget isn’t a straight line.

As a result of that in 2017, with the help of the Finance Committee and the council, the city put a stop on things because some people were not very happy about the new process. Mayor Cook said that was mostly due to people who were upset about the new formula because they’d always done it the old way. And because of that, they had taken some hits in the budget.

“We said, ‘we’re going to start out the year on a cash-basis, and as the revenue comes in we’re going to start financing things, paying for things based on what our year looks like,’ so we’re not getting the cart ahead of the horse on expenses,” said Mayor Cook. “So we’re not trying to speculate ‘oh, taxes will provide this much.’ [The budget] is a plan, and what we have to develop that plan is history. We know kind of what things are going to be.”

Two years later following that ordeal, and Mayor Cook says the 2018 budget is finishing in great shape, as the Current Expense 001 Fund is at 80 percent of expenses from what they projected it would be when they passed the budget.

“That’s phenomenal, that’s amazing,” said Mayor Cook. “And we haven’t really been cheap, but we’ve been more efficient and have been more mindful of our decisions. And so that reflects pretty much down as you go through all of the different funds and all of the different areas of the budget. So we’re ending 2018 in a really good place. And so on the next day, when January 1st hits, we’re starting 2019 with a good beginning balance. We have good reserves and we have a specific plan on each of these items that’s really going to move us in an organized, transparent direction.”

Mayor Cook said he told the Finance Committee how optimistic he was about the 2019 budget at their meeting earlier that night. He said that he wishes he could take the credit, “but it really happens in that room and it happens in committees. And it’s the efforts of all of the staff, including the council.”

Other business during the council meeting included the approval of Ordinance 2118, which adopts model business license language as directed by Engrossed House Bill 2015, which was passed by the Washington State Legislature in 2017.

All cities in the state are required to use either the state’s Business Licensing System (BLS) by 2022 or FileLocal by 2020. The City determined that BLS offers the most benefit for management of its business licensing program, and BLS has scheduled the City’s conversion and implementation for 2020.

The new language includes a uniform definition of “engaging in business” and other issues. “Engaging in business” means “commencing, conducting, or continuing in any business within the city, whether or not an office or physical location for the business lies within the city, and also the exercise of corporate or franchise powers, as well as liquidating a business when the liquidators thereof hold themselves out to the public as conducting such business.”

Amendments to the Ritzville City Code were needed to meet the new requirements. Activities that constitutes “engaging in business” include:

-Owning, renting, leasing or maintaining tangible or intangible personal property or real property permanently or temporarily located in the City limits.

-Owning, renting, leasing or maintaining an office, place of business, or other establishment in the City.

-Soliciting sales.

-Making repairs or providing maintenance or service to real or tangible personal property, including warranty work and property maintenance.

-Providing technical assistance or service, including quality control, product inspections, warranty work, or similar services on or in connection with tangible property sold by the person or on its behalf.

-Installing, constructing, or supervising installation or construction of real or tangible personal property.

-Soliciting, negotiating, or approving franchise, license, or other similar agreements.

-Collecting current or delinquent accounts.

-Picking up and transporting tangible personal property, solid waste, construction debris, or excavated materials.

-Providing disinfecting and pest control services, employment and labor pool services, home nursing care, janitorial services, appraising, landscape architectural services, security system services, surveying, and real estate services including the listing of homes and managing real property.

-Rendering professional services such as those provided by accountants, architects, attorneys, auctioneers, consultants, engineers, professional athletes, barbers, baseball clubs and other sports organizations, chemists, consultants, psychologists, court reporters, dentists, doctors, detectives, laboratory operators, teachers and veterinarians.

-Meeting with customers or potential customers, even when no sales or orders are solicited at the meetings.

-Training or recruiting agents, representatives, independent contractors, brokers or others, domiciled or operating on a job in the City, acting on its behalf, or for customers or potential customers.

-Investigating, resolving, or otherwise assisting in resolving customer complaints.

-In-store stocking or manipulating products or goods, sold to and owned by a customer, regardless of where sale and delivery of the goods took place.

-Delivering goods in vehicles owned, rented, leased, used, or maintained by the person or another acting on its behalf.

A business license will not be required for “any activities of a temporary nature, such as contests, circuses, shows, auctions or other business licensed under another ordinance of the city.” Nonprofit associations, clubs or corporations that are maintained for the purpose of “organized sports, charity, public school-related activities, or municipal-related activities” are also not required to have a business license.

Additionally, vendors “not otherwise engaged in a business in the city who rent a booth or space, or are otherwise a participant at a city-sanctioned or sponsored event” also do not need a business license, as well as minors who do or operate a business where no other person is employed by the minor, such as babysitting or lawn mowing.

Perhaps most relevant to the City, farmers, gardeners or other persons “selling, delivering, or peddling fruits, vegetables, berries, butter, eggs, fish, milk, poultry, meats or other farm produce or edibles” that are raised, caught, produced or manufactured by such person in any place in the state are not required to have a business license.

The council also voted to allow The Guardians Foundation to wrap up their campaign in Ritzville from Dec. 21 to 23. The privately funded foundation is based in Post Falls, Idaho, and seeks to provide positive, lasting, change in the lives of veterans within our communities.”

Author Bio

Brandon Cline, Former editor

Brandon is a former editor of The Ritzville Adams County Journal.


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