News Column

Pullman first quarter finances holding steady to last year's numbers

May 8, 2014

By Bill McKee, Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho



May 08--Pullman's first quarter finances for 2014 look a lot like numbers from last year, according to a presentation by the city's finance department to the City Council this week.

"At this early stage in the year, both revenues and expenditures are in a position that is not unexpected," said city finance director Bill Mulholland on Tuesday night at the council meeting. "Between revenue and expenditures we are ahead $6,427 from last year."

Total expenditures through the end of March, at $3.56 million, are 20.92 percent of the year's total budget, a decrease of less than one percent from expenses in the first quarter of 2013, he said. Differences were primarily the result of timing on payments for law enforcement and judicial services from the county.

First quarter revenue was $2.74 million, or 14.9 percent of the year's budget, down from last year's first quarter collections by 1.6 percent, with differences there due to a decrease in grants and building permitting, as well as timing on billing for emergency medical services.

The biggest increase for the city over last year was in sales taxes, up $213,000 over first quarter 2013, an increase of 23.6 percent. Mulholland said that was the result of use taxes that should have been paid last year getting pushed into this year and strong construction-related sales taxes. He added the strong performance was not a trend he expected to continue throughout the year.

This year's budget was written with a total increase over 2013 of $500,470, he said, which will be used to fill positions left vacant during recent lean years, getting them back to prerecession staffing levels. He also said with funds from the levy lifts approved by the city last year, they will be addressing some "long put-off" infrastructure projects.

While the initial outlook for the year is promising, Mulholland cautioned against expectations that the positive trend will continue, and suggested a conservative approach with the possibility of another recession looming around the corner.

Though it may not have felt like it, he said the past five years have been a period of economic expansion, so the city needs to adjust it's budget for the economic cycle, or face a rude awakening when the current boom ends.

"We have some money with budget levies that we haven't had before, which will help offset some of the declines in the sales tax revenues, but we still have infrastructure costs we need to get caught up on, we have internal equity we need to be concerned with and we also need to get reserves to the point where we've got some sustainability," Mulholland said.

The City Council also approved the listing of brick portions of Palouse and Maple streets and the Pullman Veteran's Memorial as the first sites to be listed on Pullman's Register of Historic Places.

"Listing on the Pullman register is an honorary designation, denoting significant association with the heritage of the community," said Pete Dickinson, city planning director.

The brick portions of Palouse and Maple streets, originally laid in 1913, were requested for listing on the local register by the College Hill Association last year, following research efforts by a historic preservation seminar class at Washington State University. The subject was brought before the council last November, but a decision was delayed to allow time to address concerns that listing on the local register would remove controls from the city over any proposed changes to the streets.

Dickinson also noted the streets have recently been added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Pullman's Veteran's War Memorial Obelisk, at the corner of East Main and Spring streets, was originally dedicated in 1950. It too was recommended for listing last year, but the decision was delayed until the concerns over listing the brick portions of Palouse and Maple Streets were addressed.

Bill McKee can be reached at (509) 883-4627, or by email to wmckee@dnews.com.

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(c)2014 the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho)

Visit the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (Moscow, Idaho) at www.dnews.com

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Source: Moscow-Pullman Daily News (ID)


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