The Hailey City Council took a first look at the city’s proposed fiscal 2022 budget last week, initiating a three-month-long discussion period on funding priorities for the coming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, 2021.
The draft budget for fiscal 2022 is currently at $14.8 million, up $2 million—or 15%—from fiscal 2021.
During the heart of the pandemic last summer, councilmembers were forced to make a series of budget cuts—including layoffs and pay cuts—due to the impacts of COVID-19. Now, the City Council plans to restore the city’s general fund to its pre-COVID state.
“We are in a strong economy now,” Dawson said last Monday.
The general fund consists of an operations fund, bond fund and capital projects fund. Revenue is derived from property taxes, state taxes, local-option taxes, fines, permits, inspections and franchise fees.
Proposed changes to the operations fund include increasing annual city staff salaries by about 7 to 8% across most departments and adding new positions at the Hailey Public Library and in the Community Development and Public Works Departments.
As far as capital projects, Public Works Director Brian Yeager said the city is able to appropriate over $20 million for capital projects in 2022. The city has already secured revenue for some projects, such as the proposed Croy Campground, through grant money and development fees, he said.
Some suggested capital improvement projects include reconstructing sections of street in the Woodside industrial district, adding a small roundabout at the Croy and Eighth Street intersection, making safety improvements to the Main and Myrtle intersection, constructing a bike path along Broadford Road and upgrading the pavilion at Heagle Park.
Council President Kaz Thea asked that a higher priority be put on the city’s website, which she said is hard to navigate.
“We budgeted $15,000 to rebuild our website years ago. I don’t know why we haven’t hired a web designer already,” she said.
Also during its meeting last week, the council introduced an ordinance to raise Mayor Martha Burke’s annual salary by 18%—from $24,000 to $28,200—and councilmembers’ salaries by 6%, from $10,200 to $10,800. Those adjustments can only be made in the city’s operations budget during an election year, such as this one.
Burke’s salary would increase $350 per month; councilmembers’ salaries would increase $50 per month.
“It’s a reasonable time to look at these salary increases. We stopped raising council and mayor salaries consistently six years ago,” Dawson said.
She noted that different jurisdictions take different approaches to funding mayoral and councilmember salaries. Ketchum, for example, pays councilmembers $20,800 per year and Mayor Neil Bradshaw $37,354 per year, with benefits included.
Councilman Sam Linnet said he supported the salary increases to keep governmental positions attractive and accessible, as long as they weren’t “too financially enticing.”
“Oftentimes, council spots are filled by folks that have extra time and sufficient income to volunteer for the community, which is wonderful,” he said. “I want to make sure this position is open to more people in our community, though, so we can get more diversity of opinion and experiences.”
Councilman Juan Martinez agreed that pro-bono work was not attractive, but said he was “a little nervous” about the salary increases.
“I don’t like when the boss asks for more money, so to speak,” Martinez said.
Dawson and Yeager asked the council to “not feel guilty” about approving the elected-official increases.
“Salaries need to be set to the level of work that you do. You took on tremendous responsibility during COVID-19,” Dawson said. “By June , you logged as many council meetings as in any previous year.”
Other budget priorities
Beginning this fall, the city is looking to bolster police and fire department funding by over $41,000, Mountain Rides funding by $20,500, Hailey Ice tourist and event promotion by $7,500, Senior Connection transportation services by $3,000, Chamber of Hailey & The Wood River Valley funding by $3,000 and downtown beautification projects by $3,000.
In terms of emergency services, the city hopes to lease two new police vehicles and bring on board a full-time deputy chief at the Hailey Fire Department. The city has not had a deputy fire chief since the 2008 recession, City Administrator Heather Dawson said.