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Sandpoint council discusses budgets

| August 23, 2022 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT – Budgets were the main topics of conversation at the Sandpoint City Council meeting on Wednesday.

At the beginning of this month, two public hearing notices were issued for discussion on two topics – the 2023 fiscal year budget and city fees. Before the public hearing, City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton gave a brief presentation on the 2023 fiscal year budget.

In the presentation, Stapleton told the council that the total for the revenue and expenses budget was $49,655,534, which is an increase from the 2022 budget due to the $7.5 million donation from the Russell family for Travers Park project which has been bid, awarded and the building design is underway, Stapleton said.

The budget wasn’t the only noted increase in the meeting. A “snapshot” breakdown of other expenses and expenditures that the budget accounts for also was outlined at the meeting. Stapleton told the council of increases and oddities in city statistics detailing the city’s employees, active business, and population.

While the U.S. Census has set the city’s population at around 8,700 residents, Stapleton said that number does not account for the number of vacation homeowners. Based on vacancy and utility usage, city officials have pinpointed that number at around 10,000. Another noted increase was found in the number of active businesses in Sandpoint, which is estimated at 1,469.

“We have a very rich tapestry of businesses, we’re not just a town of tourism, which is one of the things that set us apart and keep our economy strong,” Stapleton said. “But it is a challenge in times of housing shortages and staffing shortages that all businesses are facing.”

Stapleton told the council that most of the business increases took place this year and are seen mostly in the construction industry. In a weekly review of business license applications, Stapleton said she and her team see on average anywhere from two to five construction-related businesses either renewing or applying for a license.

The business increase, as well as all the statistics, are from numbers Stapleton said she drew in 2017 when she began work on the fiscal year budget. They are based on current numbers for 2022 and show a five-year difference and look forward to next year.

Another detail noted by Stapleton, that she said she brings up specifically for the public due to questions she had been asked in the past, was the usage of the city budget. Stapleton showed a slide that depicted how the funds were being split between two key categories, capital plans, and operations, with Both amounts being over $21 million.

In further breakdowns of the budget, Stapleton told the council that $300,000 is earmarked for a park's land purchase. Although it was not used, Stapleton said $200,000 of that amount actually comes from this year's fiscal budget, meaning only $100,000 was added, to accommodate rising land prices. The priority is to purchase downtown waterfront property, Stapleton said this purchase is not only a priority in the city budget but also to the parks and recreation master plan.

An additional $50,000 has been “rolled” into the budget for the expansions of park trails and improvement of pathways, particularly in Travers Park, City Beach, and Lakeview Park, with the main concern to improve the overall infrastructure in those parks making sure they are ADA accessible.

Continuing to break down the budget, Stapleton showed the council that all aspects had been thought of with funding specifically marked for economic development, travel and training of city employees, and urban forestry.

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