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Libby set to vote on $9.7 million budget

by WILL LANGHORNE
The Western News | September 3, 2021 7:00 AM

City councilors in Libby plan to vote on the municipality’s proposed $9.7 million budget at their Sept. 7 meeting.

This year’s financial road map marks a sharp increase over last year’s $5.8 million budget.

Some of the rise in spending came from an employee wage bump. This year, city staff can expect a 2 percent cost of living increase along with a 1 percent wage bump. City Clerk and Treasurer Samuel Sikes said the city would pay an estimated $1,070,000 in wages next year. The figure could change, however, due to fluctuations in overtime pay.

Grants and government funding fueled a chunk of the city’s spending. A new line item for grants and contributions under the city’s community development fund would bring in $691,000.

As part of the federal American Recovery Plan Act, the city received $354,933. Libby’s allotment of the state gas tax increased by roughly $20,000 to $73,155 this year.

These grants and donations also contributed to the $2.1 million increase in the city's revenue over last year to $7.3 million.

One of the newest features of this year’s financial road map is a series of capital improvement funds. These monies, part of Libby’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) are designed to alleviate the strain of major expenses for the city. Rather than take out loans to finance building projects and vehicle payments, city officials will be able to dip into these funds and avoid future debts.

This year’s budget includes six capital improvement funds: one for city buildings, the police department, the volunteer fire department, streets, the water plant and sewer treatment.

Councilors plan to set aside $65,000 as part of the city building fund, $35,000 for the police department, $74,490 for the fire department and $121,297 for streets. The budget includes $1 allotments for both the sewer treatment and water plant capital improvement funds.

Sikes spearheaded the effort to establish the CIP. Councilors voted to create a capital improvement fund in March.

“I want that to be my legacy,” said Sikes. “In 30 to 40 years I want [the city] to look back and say this is a great tool for us.”

Along with wage increases, the city’s budget includes a new cash in lieu of benefits program for employees. Municipal staff members who qualify for alternative health care packages — in most cases through their spouses or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs — may collect two-thirds the cost of their city plan. The remaining third would be passed on to the city as savings.

To alleviate confusion about vacation time, city officials are giving employees 120 hours of holiday a year. Previously, city staff enjoyed 15 days of time off. Due to variations in the number of hours employees work each day — some, for example, can work 13-hour shifts — certain staff members were eligible for more time off than others.