By Ann McCreary
The Twisp Town Council has approved a 2018 budget that projects only a small increase in spending over this year’s levels.
The general fund budget, which pays for most town services such as police, public works, fire protection, planning and the airport, is $1,094,415 for 2018. Last year’s general fund budget was $1,040,624, or $53,790 less.
Twisp residents and businesses will see increases next year in water and sewer rates. Water rates will increase by $1.20 per month or 2.5 percent. Sewer rates will increase by $3.14 per month or 6 percent. That means the monthly water and sewer bills will increase from a total of $109.05 per month this year to $113.78 in 2018 or $4.73 more including taxes.
Water and sewer services are provided through self-sustaining funds. The town is required by state law to set rates high enough to balance the water and sewer funds.
“The general financial projection for 2018 is predicted to be relatively stable,” said Mayor Soo Ing-Moody in a summary of the 2018 budget. “Retail sales revenue projections remain conservative for 2018 in part to account for a slight dip experienced in 2017, which may have been due in part to the extended period of smoke lingering in the area from wildfires in the region.”
She said the town expects to see a “slow and moderate” increase in property tax revenues as a result of new planned residential developments in the Painter’s Addition neighborhood and planned construction of 16 new affordable-income homes by the Methow Housing Trust.
The mayor noted that the state capital budget, held up by partisan wrangling during the last Legislative session, has not yet been passed, and leaves two major town projects in limbo. “There is only speculation at this point that the town may yet receive additional revenues toward two capital projects — the construction of the Twisp Civic Building and the renovation of the Twisp Sports Complex.” The sports complex is planned for fields near the municipal airport.
Ing-Moody said if funding is awarded, groundbreaking for the projects would not begin until 2019 because of the short construction season.
Two areas of concern for the future are the Wagner Memorial Pool and the Twisp Municipal Airport, Ing-Moody said. “As the annual funding received from the Wagner Trust is set to expire in 2024, increased discussion is needed to address the future of the pool,” she said.
The pool budget, only 71 cents more in 2018 than 2017, “reflects the need for greater community involvement on this matter,” Ing-Moody said. “The Parks and Recreation Committee and the Friends of the Pool continue to bring attention to this much-needed discussion.” Friends of the Pool is a local nonprofit organization that raises money to support the pool.
Municipal Airport expenditures exceed revenues, and the Airport Advisory Board is exploring ways to raise matching money for a grant to improve the south taxiway at the airport, Ing-Moody said.
Water, sewer and street improvement projects will continue in 2018 through state and federal grants and loans, the mayor said. Whenever possible, water and sewer improvements are coupled with surface roadway project to minimize cost and maximize efficiency, she said.
Twisp’s police department is fully staffed with three officers, and the 2018 budget includes funding for vehicle equipment and supplies for the third officer. The town is continuing to contract for fire protection from Okanogan County Fire District 6, with an increase of $1,380 in 2018.