City departments present preliminary budget requests

City budget, allocations to be determined on or after Nov. 17; councilmembers emphasize need for economic growth



Each city department will have a slight increase in budget requests, said Mike Urban, finance director and interim city administrator.

SYDNEY BROWN, Evergreen reporter

Pullman City Council started its budget process for 2021 and 2022, hearing proposals from city departments that will be determined on or after Nov. 17. 

Councilmembers emphasized the need for economic growth after COVID-19’s impact on the Pullman local business environment.  

Mike Urban, Pullman director of finance and administrative services, said each department will have a slight increase in budget requests because the city’s insurance will now be spread to each department individually. 

“Instead of saying we’re going to put insurance here and let it exist, we’re going to drop it into the different functional groups and make it more representative of the actual activity of that group, so there is an increase in insurance,” Urban said.

Business recovery and local tourism

Marie Dymkoski, executive director of the Pullman Chamber of Commerce, presented on the civic improvement fund, a stand-alone fund to promote tourism in Pullman. 

The chamber is asking for $109,000 for 2021, a $268,000 decrease from last year’s request, according to city documents

Dymkoski said the city took a major hit from lack of hotel and lodging taxes and is not expected to recover to last year’s revenue streams by next year. 

The tourism industry was expected to bring in $389,000 but dropped to $268,000 due to the cancelation of the National Lentil Festival, Music on Main and fall football games, Dymkoski said. 

The chamber is also asking for $40,040 to support a full-time tourism director. 

“If we are allowed to have events we will rely even more heavily on our staff,” Dymkoski said.

The chamber has been working on a Visit Pullman campaign, which would ideally compile hotel bookings, restaurants, shopping and community events into one well-designed website, she said. 

“Especially when COVID hit it seemed more important to talk about how Pullman was coming together, to say, ‘Come to Pullman and we will be waiting for you,’” Dymkoski said. 

Councilmember Al Sorenson said the city needs to prioritize local business, especially with the concern that many will not come back after the pandemic.

“[The City of] Pullman and Pullman Chamber [of Commerce] need to step up,” Sorenson said. “This is about recovery and moving forward, and we need to step up our game as much as possible.”

City council finances

Urban presented on the finance department, which consists of the information technology department, human resources, the city attorney and the city clerk. 

The finance and clerk department is requesting $1.1 million for 2021, an $18,000 decrease from last year’s request. According to city documents, the department will save nearly $160,000 on its IT department expenses. 

Other savings come from lack of print materials, Urban said. 

Finance will spend more in salaries because of a new accountant to help with workload at the department, he said. 

The legislative department, which is made up of elected councilmembers, is asking for $362,244, a $134,000 increase from last year. 

Increases are attributed to insurance changes Urban mentioned earlier, and cost of elections, as three of the members will be up for re-election next year. 

The city attorney budget will stay the same as last year’s request at $114,000. 

Human resources is asking for $5,000 more than last year, with the increase attributed to IT expenses that were not distributed department-by-department during previous years. 

Generally, facilities expenses decreased due to meetings going virtual, Urban said.

Pullman Police makes major cuts

Pullman Police Chief Gary Jenkins presented the Pullman Police Department 2021 budget request, which went down by $656,680 mainly because of vacant officer positions and cuts to supplies and training. 

“We have learned to be more creative in training methods,” Jenkins said. 

The department is asking for $7.7 million, according to city documents.  This budget will actually cut more over time than during the pandemic, he said. 

The department will hope to regain in-house training, especially as it explores alternatives to use-of-force tactics, he said.

The request makes cuts in nearly every part of the department, except for increases in minor equipment to replace old equipment and miscellaneous operating expenses, according to the city documents. 

Fire department asks for more support

Fire Chief Mike Heston said the department was able to hire three firefighters to help with the Washington state fires that wracked the area this September. 

These new hires account for much of the nearly $660,000 increase in the department’s request from last year, he said. 

The department is requesting $8.1 million for 2021, according to the city documents. 

The increase is also attributed to equipment repairs, equipment replacements, professional services, the addition of Dispatch Service fees for $36,922, RingCentral phone system fees for $8,240, and fire academy costs of $43,000 for the hiring of three new firefighters through the Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.

Airport plans for terminal project finishes

Tony Bean, executive director of the Moscow-Pullman Regional Airport, set forth a $32.6 million request, which is a $10.6 million increase from last year. 

Bean said the increase is mostly capital expenditures because of the expected Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding and grants that will cover the terminal project. 

Parks, recreation, and library budgets

City recreation manager Kurt Dahmen said the recreational department is asking for $158,213, a $9,000 increase from last year. 

This will mainly cover new equipment and leftover costs from opening the community recreation center, according to city documents. 

Dahmen said the department reduced about half of its service budget because they do not know which services they will provide next year. 

City parks manager Alan Davis said the department hopes to spend money on maintaining the path system, paving a new path near Canyon View, and adding staffing for existing trail maintenance, seasonal light displays and water towers. 

The department is asking for $1.3 million, down about $37,000 from 2020. 

Davis said the increases are also to cover communication costs, increases in IT and the inclusion of parks liability insurance. The department will save money on supplies and capital expenses, he said. 

The library is asking for $1.8 million, which is a $50,215 increase from last year, according to city documents. 

Joanna Bailey, Neill Public Library director, said the increase is attributed to buying more supplies. The library will also spend more on operating expenses like virtual library programs, networking, internet, laptop licensing and streaming service subscriptions to make up for the loss of books that will not be bought. 

The council will deliberate about more departments and make decisions about allocations during its meeting on Nov. 17. 

Editor’s Note: This article has been corrected. The Pullman Chamber of Commerce is asking for $109,000 for 2021, a $268,000 decrease from 2020, not $826,000.