Revenues steady, but concerns loom about national economy
The Town of Twisp is holding the line on spending next year, adopting a budget that is slightly lower than 2018 levels.
The Town Council last week approved a 2019 general fund budget that proposes $1,070,809 in expenditures. That is $23,605 less than this year’s general fund budget of $1,094,415.
The general fund supports many of the town’s daily operations including police and fire protection, planning and building inspection, municipal court, parks and pool, the municipal airport, library, emergency medical services, animal control, the town clerk’s office and the mayor and council.
Overall financial projections for 2019 are predicted to be relatively stable, but Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said speculation about a potential downturn in the U.S. economy and possible recession caused her to take a “very conservative” approach in her budget planning.
“The town’s revenues continue to hold steady with modest increases due to a slow rate of growth from new construction in 2018, which is expected to continue into 2019,” Ing-Moody said in a budget message to the Town Council.
“The number of businesses in town continues to slowly grow, including a new business or two added to the mix within the past year. Retail sales remain steady with some modest growth over last year’s predictions,” Ing-Moody said.
“However, this revenue may become vulnerable and subject to some flux as recent and growing nationwide speculation calls for a potential dip into a recession; if materialized, impacts, if any, to Washington state and the Seattle/Puget Sound areas are unknown,” the mayor said.
“As such, Twisp’s overall revenue projections for 2019 remain very conservative despite the locally anticipated building trend, which in time is expected to show a positive impact to property tax revenues.”
Twisp residents will see a $5.33 monthly increase in their water and sewer bills next year. Water and sewer services are paid through separate funds — not the general fund — and are required by state law to be balanced. The Town Council approved an increase in the monthly base rate for water and sewer service, including taxes, from $113.78 this year to $119.11 next year.
While most of the general fund spending categories project slightly decreased spending, “there are three notable areas that have not been reduced and are worth addressing for future budget considerations,” Ing-Moody said in her budget message.
She cited rising costs for the Wagner Memorial Pool, the Twisp Municipal Airport and the lease for library space at the Methow Valley Community Center.
“These infrastructure services are deemed valuable for Twisp and our greater Methow Valley community, however, the associated costs to maintain these assets are expected to continue to rise, while for the time being, the financial burden is unsustainably incurred solely by the citizens of Twisp,” the mayor said.
Twisp officials have frequently expressed frustration in recent years about the financial burden of the Wagner Pool, which is expensive to maintain. Although used by residents from throughout the Methow Valley, the pool is the financial responsibility of Twisp, which gets assistance from Friends of the Pool, a local nonprofit organization that raises money for the facility.
Airport costs are projected to increase next year, Ing-Moody said, and the town has been working for several months with pilots who lease hangars at the airport to draft a new contract and rate structure “to address this growing disparity.” A draft of the hangar lease contract is currently under consideration by the town and the Airport Advisory Board.
Town Council members also discussed the library lease at Methow Valley Community Center (MVCC). The town pays rent for the library to MVCC, and is partially reimbursed by the North Central Regional Library, which owns the library. However, Twisp has to make up the difference between the rent and the reimbursement, Ing-Moody said.
“I’ve questioned why the town has to be involved,” Ing-Moody said. “We’re the middle man here.” She said town officials will look into the arrangement and bring back more information for the council to consider at a future meeting.