Bellevue mayor presents 2019 budget

Bellevue Council got its first look at Mayor Emily Marburger’s proposed 2019 budget at Tuesday’s regular council meeting.

Under Bellevue’s home rule charter, the mayor is required to submit a proposed budget to council by mid-November, at which point council has full power to change anything and everything the mayor has proposed, and advertise its own budget for a public hearing and eventual adoption.

The budget proposed by Marburger contains a number of items that are ripe for council debate, among them the addition of a paid fire chief, massive salary increases for two employees, and reducing the street paving budget by about one-third.

The mayor has proposed hiring a full-time paid fire chief due to reported conflicts between the borough’s paid and volunteer firefighters, as well as within the volunteer fire company itself. Marburger said that the paid chief also would head the code enforcement office, and the paid firefighters would assist with code enforcement. One major snag in the plan is that the volunteer fire company is a private organization that does not have to answer to a chief employed and appointed by the borough. With $80,000 set aside in the budget for the chief’s salary, the restructuring of public safety management is expected to cost more than $100,000 once the cost of benefits is considered.

The budget also includes extremely large salary increases for both the director of administrative services and the public works supervisor. The DAS salary would go from $67,249.42 to $80,000, while the salary of the DPW supervisor would increase from $61,000 to $75,000. Marburger said that the increases are necessary to bring their salaries in line with those paid by other communities in the state.

The mayor’s budget cuts the amount allocated for street paving, from a projected $325,000 spent in 2018 to only $220,000 in 2019. Marburger said that the paving budget was reduced so that sub-surface road issues could be addressed, and funds directed to mandated repairs at East and West Bellevue Stations.

In her letter to council, Marburger stressed the need for community “amenities,” including events that bring the community together and attract visitors.

“Millennials and young families’ needs should be at the forefront of the decision-making for the direction of these activities and growth of our amenities. This group of people currently makes up the largest portion of the home-buying market and spending economy.”

The mayor points out that she has eliminated the expenditure of about $10,000 annually for the services of Town Centre Associates, the company engaged to focus on development of Bellevue’s downtown business district.

Council will now hold budget meetings, open to the public, on Oct. 29. Nov. 5 and 26, and Dec. 3, all at 6;30 p.m. in council chambers.