SEASIDE - The Seaside Budget Committee has approved a city budget totaling $24.4 million.

The budget includes a $4.2 million general fund and additional expenses, including the downtown maintenance district, Civic and Convention Center, water and sewer treatment and a sewer plant replacement fund, among other funds.

Although there were few surprises, City Manager Mark Winstanley noted Tuesday night that the budget contained some good news and some concerns.

Taxpayers saved $722,000 on the construction of a $4 million water tank because the tank was completed several months ahead of schedule, Winstanley said.

In addition, the debt owed on the new library is down to less than $200,000 from more than $600,000 after it was built. Donations, grants and a $250,000 contribution from the city's urban renewal agency reduced the debt, Winstanley said. The city still plans to sell the old library building, which has been appraised at $625,000, to pay the remaining debt. Funds left over will be placed in a newly created "library trust," which will pay for major maintenance projects and additions to the library's collection.

Sewer and water rates won't be raised this year "considering the plight of some families" in Seaside, said Winstanley. The water and sewer departments are in good enough shape to be able to go for a year without higher rates, but Winstanley warned that rates will go up again next year.

"I will not do this two years in a row," he added. "I would have to come back then with a very large increase."

The departments won't expand with new employees, and some vacant positions may not be filled, he said.

The city hopes to receive a $3.96 million federal stimulus grant to replace the sewage treatment plant's outflow systems that have been buried in sand, update electronic monitoring equipment that no longer works and install new screens to prevent pollutants from entering the sewage treatment system. The state Department of Environmental Quality is requiring the city to move the outflow systems and replace the monitoring equipment.

"We have other loans and grants available even if we don't get the stimulus," Winstanley said. "A DEQ mandate opens up funding to you."

Although revenue from room taxes is down this year, the convention center, which depends on that income for more than one-third of its $3.3 million budget, can handle the reduction this year, the city manager said. But if the taxes continue to fall for the next two or three years, "the center will have challenges," he added.

However, this quarter's taxes aren't down as much as last quarter's taxes, Winstanley noted.

"There are some signs that things are getting better. ... It will be interesting to see what the next quarter will bring."

Among the proposed purchases for the center is a $300,000 generator that could be used during emergencies if the center is used to shelter people. It also will help to "wind a convention down" if a power outage occurs that suddenly puts everyone in the dark, Winstanley said.

Proposed projects this year include:

? Construction of baseball and football fields and installation of lighting at Broadway Park. The city will appear before the Oregon State Parks Commission - at the commission's invitation - to request $625,000 for the project. The Seaside School District contributed $200,000, and other donations, grants and a transfer from the parks systems development fund will provide the $1.5 million needed to complete the fields.

? Installation of three fountains at the Prom to replace nonworking fountains and placing utilities underground there. Estimated cost: $339,000.

? Engineering and planning for the widening of the Wahanna Road and 12th Avenue intersection. Construction isn't expected until next year. Cost for engineering and planning: $33,473.

? Expansion of parks and improvement of public bathrooms, budgeted at $939,029.

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