If Longview City Council adopts the city's 2001-2002 budget at its meeting tonight, two new police officers will patrol Longview streets by next fall.

The proposed budget comes before the council after several council-staff workshops. Except for the $175,000 police addition, the budget is largely unchanged.

The proposed general fund budget is $49.3 million, up 5 percent over the 1999-2000 budget of $46.8 million.

"By and large, it's a status-quo budget in the sense that … it provides the same basic standard level of services that … our citizens have come to expect and enjoy in many ways," said Kurt Sacha, Longview finance director.

"No frills, no thrills and no new programs," he said.

"We are putting two more officers on the street. Seeing how important public service is to the general citizens, I think that is certainly notable."

The loss of motor vehicle excise taxes with last year's passage of Initiative 695 hit Longview hard, and will reduce city revenue by about $1.4 million in 2001-2002, Sacha said. All city departments took cuts, and Longview police lost five officer positions in 2000.

Overruns in police overtime and jail costs also contributed to a shrunken police budget.

The proposed additional officers would leave Longview Police Department three officers short of its former staff level. If they were hired in January, the officers would go on duty in the fall after undergoing training.

At a budget workshop last week, the council voiced general approval for the proposed budget. Council members asked, however, whether an additional $150,000 could be allocated to fund four new police officers instead of two.

But Sacha said "there wasn't enough additional revenue" for four new officers.

The added officers could help appease members of the Longview Police Guild, who have criticized Police Chief Bob Burgreen over the past three months.

Longview Police Guild president Jeff Davis said in an interview earlier this month that officer shortages risk the safety of police and citizens. He said public and officer security is the basis of the guild's gripe against Burgreen.

The guild has called Burgreen disloyal for his willingness to cut five officer positions, while city officials say Burgreen did his duty to balance the post-Initiative 695 budget.

In the current budget proposal, "we are proposing no rate increases in any of our utilities" for 2001, Sacha said. "And I think that's pretty notable in these times because certainly there are increases that we're having to bear those additional costs for."

The city plans to use about $4.5 million in cash it already has to cover inflationary costs in 2001, making ends meet in the face of "double-digit" percentage increases in city insurance premiums, electricity costs, and increased attorneys' fees for citizens who can't afford them, Sacha said.

Later, citizens will help bear those costs.

"We're looking for some modest inflationary increases" for utilities in 2002, Sacha said — about 3.4 percent for water and 4.5 percent for sewer rates.

Sacha said city officials look forward to the Mint Farm Industrial Park bringing big business and additional revenue to the city.

"Once we see (the Mint Farm) beginning to develop, we begin to embark upon perhaps looking at … new programs (and) perhaps a significant increase to our revenues."

The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed budget and the proposed 2001-2005 Capital Improvement Plan before considering them for adoption. The meeting will be held at 7 p.m. tonight at Longview City Hall.

In other business, the council will decide whether to start a program that would apprentice participation on large city construction projects.

In budget deliberations tonight, Longview City Council will consider:

- Adding two new police officers to Longview's police force

- Otherwise maintaining a "status quo" budget with no new programs or services

- Using cash reserves to cover inflationary increases in 2001, then seeking "modest" water and sewer rate increases in 2002

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