NEWS HEADLINES

Budget includes new patrolman, infrastructure improvements

By Brian Knox | Published Saturday, September 7, 2013

The city of Chico’s budget got a little smaller once again for the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

Apparently, that’s the new normal.

“It’s slightly under the total budget for the current fiscal year,” Chico Mayor J.D. Clark said. “Unfortunately, that’s the reality of our situation now. (Property tax) values have fallen like they have in much of Wise County. We’ve been finding ways to cut costs without reducing services.”

Tuesday, the council approved a budget totaling $1,722,223.63, which is $11,469 less than the 2012-2013 budget. Thursday, the council voted to keep the property tax rate at 48 cents per $100 of taxable value.

Clark said the city looked for places to cut administrative or office costs. But despite the cuts, some areas will see increased funding.

A city patrolman was added to the budget to provide a fifth day of coverage. Chico currently uses Wise County sheriff’s deputies to cover four nights per week. Galen Wiley will serve as the officer and drive a marked Chico police car. He’ll also be able to respond to emergencies during the day, Clark said.

The budget also includes money for new bunker gear for the fire department and a $3,000 increase for the Chico Public Library.

More planned street projects are in the budget. After working on three streets on the east side of town in the current budget year, three streets on the west side of town will see improvements in next year’s budget.

The majority of the EDC budget, which is funded from a half-cent sales tax, is allocated to improve and expand infrastructure.

“We think that’s the best bang for our buck right now,” Clark said. ” … It’s better long term to have your money tied up in infrastructure.”

After receiving word last week that the city has been awarded a grant for a water filtration system, $75,000 was included in the budget for administration, engineering and preliminary construction costs.

The city also received some good news on health insurance. Last month, the city was facing a 37 percent increase with Blue Cross Blue Shield. Clark said the city looked for other options and found a quote from Aetna that would actually be less than what the city is currently paying for health insurance. The cost per employee will decrease from $769 per month to $634 per month. Clark said the only change is the copay on generic prescriptions will increase from $10 to $15.

Also, for the first time, employees will receive a benefit of $15,000 in life insurance.

In other business, the council set a public hearing for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23, for a parking project. The purpose will be to receive public input on using EDC money for repaving street-side parking at the city’s municipal complex during repaving work on South Hovey Street.

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