MERIDIAN — The city of Meridian’s new fiscal year budget clocks in at $10 million less than this year’s, and one city council member wanted even more cuts.
Meridian City Council on Aug. 20 held a public hearing on its proposed $120.5 million fiscal year 2020 budget and passed it 6-1 after no residents stepped forward to testify. Prior to the vote, a few council members said they wished residents had comments at the public hearing.
City Councilman Ty Palmer said a lack of feedback was not an indicator that the budget is suitable to pass.
“There’s just tens of thousands of different items we are wasting your tax dollars on, and it is so depressing that nobody looks at it,” Palmer said. “We do such a great job of throwing spending in there and making it all confusing so that nobody notices or sees it or comes to comment on it, so we feel good about ourselves going ahead and voting for it because nobody came to object to it.”
He specifically called out $10,000 set aside for a public art consultant, as well as the roughly $600,000 earmarked for Valley Regional Transit “for buses nobody is riding” as items he would have liked to see removed from the final budget. Following his remarks, Mayor Tammy de Weerd defended the budget and its programs as important to building Meridian.
“Public transportation might not mean something to one of us, but it might mean something to your neighbor,” she said.
While the enterprise funds and overall budget would shrink, the city’s general fund budget would increase in FY20. The general fund, supported by property tax, covers personnel and operational expenses for police, fire, parks and administration. The proposed general fund is $67 million, up from $62.4 million this year and $53.4 million the previous fiscal year.
In order to balance the proposed budget, city staff plan to take a 1.5% property tax increase.
In 2019 the city took a 3% increase, the maximum allowed by the state, and a 2% increase the year before.
Included in the FY20 proposed general fund is:
n Changes in employee compensation, including merit-based pay increases, maternity and paternity leave, vacation buy-back and education reimbursement, costing $445,000.
n A prop village for police and fire to practice simulations and trainings. The building will include houses, a two-story building with a basement, apartments, businesses and a fire-training prop made of shipping containers, costing $3.5 million to build.
n Improvements to the Meridian Police Department building, including reconfiguring some work spaces and adding more office space, costing $1 million.
n Design for phase two of Discovery Park, costing $715,000.
n Design for the Heroes Park parking expansion, costing $51,000 — half of which will be reimbursed to the city by the Meridian Police Activities League.
n Design and engineering of two new 10-foot pathway connections in Meridian, costing $118,000.
n Eleven new police patrol officers and two new police vehicles, costing $1.4 million.
Next year’s proposed budget is $48.1 million, a decrease from this year’s $65.2 million. The budget includes $17.7 million of carryover funds from this year for ongoing projects.
The budget includes a handful of big-ticket items:
n New digester control building and digester in the Meridian Wastewater Treatment Facility, helping break down organic matter in sewage, costing $1 million.
n Water main extensions, costing $550,000
n Enhancements to Well 18, Well 23, Well 31 and Well 9B, costing $1.6 million.
n Finishing construction of Well 33, costing $1.1 million.
n Three new wastewater personnel, costing $246,000.