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Richland budget plans to prepare for Duportail bridge

Richland’s proposed 2016 budget would set aside $1 million for a Duportail Street bridge study, add another police officer and continue plans to move City Hall.

The city is scheduled to spend $214 million in 2016, up 0.06 percent from the this year’s budget, City Manager Cindy Reents told the city council last week. The city projects collecting $218 million in revenues.

About $49 million of the budget will go toward the general fund, which provides most city services such as police and parks.

“We are no longer what we once were,” she said. “We are bigger. We are brighter. We are definitely bolder.”

The estimated property tax rate of $2.62 per $1,000 of property value would remain the same. Reents compared that to 2005, when it was $3.07. But because the value of the property in the city is greater now, the rate can be lower and the city will collect more revenue.

If the tax rate is approved, the owner of a $100,000 home would pay about $262 a year.

The budget also includes an 8.5 percent electric rate increase and 6 percent irrigation water increase, both already approved by the council.

Residents will have several chances to give their opinion on the budget, including public hearings on the property tax Oct. 20, the budget Nov. 3 and on amendments to the budget Nov. 17.

A town hall meeting on the budget is planned from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Richland Public Library, 955 Northgate Drive.

The final budget vote is expected on Dec. 1.

The budget sets aside $1 million for a Duportail bridge study. The money will come from the solid waste closure fund. The city is scheduled to get $20 million from the state in 2017 of the estimated $38 million the project is expected to cost.

“We need to be ready for construction when the money is available to us, or someone else is going to want that money,” Reents said.

And the city plans to make progress with its Swift Boulevard Corridor masterplan, which is already appearing fruitful with new restaurants near the intersection with George Washington Way and the expansion of Kadlec Regional Medical Center under construction, Reents said.

The 40-month project is expected to result in a new City Hall campus and the sale of its existing building.

The city’s electric department plans for $10 million in upgrades, as well as starting a multi-year project to help prepare for smart grid technology.

Richland also will buy a new application for processing public records requests.

“It’s a necessary evil that we have to go through, so we might as well track them and do our due diligence,” she said.

The city plans to add one new police officer, using money from the 0.3 percent public safety sales tax approved in 2014. Richland already added six patrol officer positions in the 2015 budget.

Councilman Bob Thompson wishes the city would do more to question how much it is charged for housing prisoners at the Benton County jail.

“I think they do some rather creative accounting at the county when it comes to their jail cost, and that results in communities like ours paying more than they should for the cost of bed space,” he said.

Mayor David Rose praised Reents for using two subcommittees in the budget process.

“It has speeded the process along and clarified it quite a bit,” he said.

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