The Twisp Town Council has approved a 2021 operating budget that reflects belt-tightening in all departments but also includes several major projects.
The summary presented at last week’s council meeting set next year’s budget at $9.516 million, including $942,784 for general fund spending (day-to-day operations), $3 million for the new civic building, and other major public works projects such a new sports complex, the Canyon Street/Highway 20 intersection project (carried over from this year), and a sidewalk/pedestrian path project at the north end of town. The approved 2020 general fund budget was $1.064 million.
In addition to town property taxes, sales taxes and fees, the budget includes grants from state and federal sources.
Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said drawing up the 2021 budget took longer than usual and was a “difficult exercise.”
“It’s not without sacrifice,” she said, noting that all departments were required to trim expenses for the coming year.
Councilmember Hans Smith, a council representative on the finance committee, said the budget anticipated an expected 9-10% decrease in general fund revenues and a similar reduction in spending for town operations. He said the budget as proposed assumes that the Wagner Memorial Pool will not be open next summer.
The pool did not operate last summer because of coronavirus-related restrictions. Smith said that it would likely cost more to operate the pool than it would generate in revenue.
The budget also calls for an $8,000 reduction in the 2% hotel/motel occupancy taxes that have been allocated to the Twisp Chamber of Commerce for tourism-related promotions and activities, from $34,000 in 2020 to $26,000 in 2021. Some of the 2% funds will be directed to other needs, such as public restrooms for visitors and shoppers.
Mayor Soo Ing-Moody said the cut in chamber funding came only after a long discussion by the finance committee. She noted that the town’s allocation to the chamber had increased steadily from $12,000 in 2012 to $30,000 in 2018 and 2019. Ing-Moody also said the town expects less revenue from the 2% tax because of COVID impacts.
The mayor said there may be “room for discussion” about increasing the allotment to the chamber, depending on fund availability and specific needs.
In other business, the council:
• Renewed the town’s fire protection contract with Okanogan County Fire District 6 for another year, through 2021, at a cost of $53,700 — the same contract amount the town paid in 2020. In years past, discussion of the contract has sometimes been contentious, but the renewal was quickly approved last week. Ing-Moody said the town and district will discuss a possible longer-term agreement, and also the possibility of annexing the town to the fire district. The Town of Winthrop was annexed to the district a few years ago after operating under a services agreement for many years.
• Approved a request by Sawtooth Dental to put out temporary signs for the clinic’s patients, during business hours, at several on-street parking spots in front of the clinic on Glover Street. The signs will direct patients to not enter the office until it is time for their appointment, and to call the office from their car to confirm appointments.
• Approved a request from the Chamber of Commerce for funds to support the “What Local Looks Like” holiday shopping campaign. The funds will pay for advertising in the Methow Valley News and on KTRT radio.
• Renewed the contract with Highlands Associates for planning services provided to the town by Kurt Danison.
• Renewed the agreement with Okanogan County which provides building inspection services to the town.
• Agreed to extend by 180 days the expiration date of building permits that could not be exercised in a timely manner because of COVID-related restrictions by the state on construction activities.
• Renewed the lease for the Twisp library space in the Methow Valley Community Center.