Des Moines passes budget, holds off on marina plans

By Shakira Ericksen

With an air of finality the 2013 Des Moines City budget was passed unanimously by the City Council at their Dec. 6 meeting.

The general fund, including street and police funds, is $33.9 million. Total funds are $55.7 million.

“It is what it is,” said Councilmember Melissa Musser. “It’s been very eye-opening this fiscal season.”

“I think this is the best we’re going to get,” said Mayor Pro Tem Matt Pina. “It’s no fun cutting your own organization.”

“We’re missing a lot of things in the budget,” said Councilmember Jeanette Burrage.

A considerable amount of money intending for replacement of equipment and computers has been deferred, she said

Mayor Dave Kaplan voiced concerns over how much of the city budget was funded by one-time money.

One-time money comes from reserves and other sources not expected to be available year after year.

“I was leaning in favor of going against the budget, but I’ll support it,” Mayor Kaplan said. “At some point in time we’re going to have to make some tough decisions. We’ve managed to muddle through; you can only do that for so long.”

Kaplan stressed that the city can’t keep depending on one-time money and that it would only lead to tougher budgets in the future.

“It’s not easy, it can’t be done overnight, but we need to incrementally change the way we’re doing things. It takes thought and research,” said Mayor Kaplan. “A million dollars’ worth of positions that are frozen, you can only do that for so long. It’s just not sustainable in the long term.”

City Manager Tony Piasecki said that two-thirds, if not three-fourths of the budget was balanced by one-time money.

“Everything is interrelated, there are no easy answers,” said Kaplan. We’re obligated to submit a balanced budget, but it’s not something that is sustainable over a matter of time, the revenue and expenditures just don’t match up.”

All the council members expressed gratitude toward the city staff for their hard work.

“They’ve made many concessions and been willing to forego benefits, for those reasons I’m willing to support the budget,” said Kaplan. “Anytime the employees make an effort to help close the gap that goes a long way to help support the budget.”

“We have the finest people that I’ve seen anywhere working in this city,” said Councilmember Bob Sheckler.

Prior to the council meeting was an open house where members of the public could see updated plans for the marina and Beach Park development.

Although many alternatives and variations of the plans were displayed, nothing was close to being finalized. The council decided to plan a special study session to further discuss development of the marina and to revisit the issue next year.

“We’re not rushed and no one is rushing us with development plans,” said Kaplan. “We want to be very thoughtful about it.”

Several Des Moines residents raised a variety of concerns about the development plans. They said the plans would involve too many buildings that would decrease property value and compromise views.

They urged council members not to rush into any decisions and to be careful about putting up any permanent structures.

The developments are being designed in a way to enhance, rather than compete with the downtown area, said Councilmember Musser.

“We are all very mindful of what members of the community are asking for,” Musser said.

Some concerns were raised about the possibility of a hotel being built near or on the marina.

Councilmember Sheckler said that any development will be market driven, but that he seriously doubted a hotel would ever be built there.

“The reality of it is that there is no reality,” said Sheckler. “A hotel has a zero percent chance of being built down there.”

Council members Carmen Scott and Musser added that any developments would support the farmer’s market and not inhibit it.

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