Easy white leads to heavy green in Cd'A

City is in the black nine months through fiscal year

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COEUR d'ALENE - Building is booming.

Permits are pumping.

Bean counters are beaming.

With a gentle assist from Mother Nature, the City by the Lake is enjoying a heck of a year financially.

Three quarters of the way through the 2013 fiscal year, the city of Coeur d'Alene is exceeding revenue projections nearly across the board while holding down expenses. The biggest reasons for the positive revenue outlook? An easy winter that didn't break the bank on snow plowing, gas or street repair costs, followed by a spring where commercial and residential building absolutely bustled.

The combination is putting the city in the black nine months through the current fiscal year. The finance department is gearing up for workshops and a public hearing on next year's 2014 fiscal budget later this summer, but so far, the numbers say the current budget is wrapping up nicely.

"Growth has taken off more robustly than we anticipated and it seems to be sustaining that," Troy Tymesen, city finance director, said last week during a financial update to the City Council. "We have not anticipated quite that much."

In fact, the city's planning department has already exceeded last year's output.

Last year, the city issued 462 building permits, worth $32.3 million in added valuation. Already this fiscal year, it has surpassed that total by 86, issuing 548 permits for $88 million in new valuation.

On a month-to-month breakdown, the city issued 139 permits in June compared to 66 in June 2012. It has tallied $3.8 million in growth-related permits and fees so far this year. Last year, it did $3.6 million for the year. The building department has approximately 75 requests on its desk now, too.

"People are choosing to do business in your community," Tymesen told the City Council. "This is good news, great news, phenomenal news, so I'm very, very pleased."

Another indicator of growth impacting city coffers is the increase in revenues generated just from impact fees - essentially charges on new development. Revenues generated by impact fees and some other growth related fees are dedicated dollars, however, meaning they can't go to general expenditures, rather are dedicated to specific operations, like road maintenance.

But they do indicate growth is happening, Tymesen said, which is a good sign heading out of a national recession.

With a quarter of the year to go, the city has collected $829,666. That's $429,666 more than officials budgeted for. In 2012, the city took in $633,098 for the whole year.

As far as building permits, those are up, too.

So far, the city has nearly $1 million in building permits, more than all of last year's $787,000 figure. It's still behind the boom years. In 2005, the city earned $2 million in building permits.

The city's fiscal year begins Oct. 1. The $77 million 2013 budget still has about three months to go, and the general fund is 62 percent spent. On a 12-month scale, it should be about 67 percent expended at this point, though it likely will even out by the end of the fiscal year, Tymesen predicted.

"Every department is on track," Tymesen said. "We're looking at coming in at the general fund right where we want to."

Meanwhile, the Association of Idaho Cities is projecting modest increases in sales tax and highway revenue between 1 percent and 5 percent for next year. Those dollars come from sales tax revenues, liquor distribution revenues and highway revenues.

The lighter than normal winter load helped the financial outlook in reduced gas, repair and maintenance costs. The city's street department conducted seven arterial plows this year, but had budgeted for 11.

The City Council will begin hashing out next year's fiscal budget during a workshop Tuesday, July 23 in the Community Room of the public library.

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