Council hears budget workshop presentation

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Sandpoint city staff presented a wide-ranging overview of the preliminary fiscal year 2022 budget to council members Aug. 4, including deep dives into several specific projects ranging from personnel to transportation infrastructure, parks and recreation, and a multitude of other big-ticket items related to master planning efforts and other aspects of city management.

The budget workshop revisited many of the nuts and bolts of the July 21 presentation, during which staff proposed and council approved a preliminary maximum budget of almost $40.6 million for FY 2022.

Sandpoint City Hall. Photo by Ben Olson.

Among the highlights included the city’s desire to hire another police officer, as “calls for service are up substantially from years before,” said City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton.

Meanwhile, the city is undergoing a “fundamental shift,” Stapleton said, from master planning to implementation.

Among those master plans was the Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces plan, which Stapleton said other cities have referred to as a “master plan on steroids.”

Of concern is whether Sandpoint’s population will come in over 10,000 in the upcoming census, which means the city would lose both its ability to levy a resort city tax and go to voters for a local option tax. 

“We will likely have one time that we can go back to voters and ask for support,” Stapleton said. “We will not make it through another census under 10,000 [population].”

Longtime Parks and Rec. Director Kim Woodruff applauded the council and staff for their vision in trying to “stay ahead of the curveball … because we’ve got a pretty fast curveball coming at us,” in terms of rapid population growth.

Stapleton also noted that code amendments are due to go before the Planning and Zoning Commission at its Tuesday, Aug. 17 meeting related to redevelopment along the Sand Creek waterfront known as Farmins Landing in downtown Sandpoint. The vision initially centered on stormwater management, but has since evolved into, “A gathering space, a celebration space, a decompressing space, and/or a recreational space as well,” Stapleton said, referring to the area of waterfront purchased by the city from Bridge Street to Gunning’s Alley.

“We believe we can leverage a lot of money for this and this really is a national-type of project,” she said.

Council member Deb Ruehle highlighted the number of projects currently underway, and noted that they are progressing without a full-time city planner. That position has been in flux since the departure of Aaron Qualls in late-2020, with a brief stint by Susan Lauinger from early-May to mid-June this year. Since then, interim Planner Daren Fluke has filled the job, with Development and Infrastructure Services Director Amanda Wilson also standing in for various planning roles.

“I do have some concerns that we don’t have true leadership in that planning area,” Ruehle said. “I’m hoping we can get that position filled relatively rapidly.”

Stapleton said the hiring market for planners is “very competitive right now” and the city will be reposting the position — as well as a listing for a utilities manager — in the next week. Meanwhile, the city is working with a government headhunter firm, which will assist with outreach and marketing, as well as vetting of candidates. Stapleton said the city hopes to have both jobs filled in the next 16 weeks. 

The budget proposal will go back before the City Council at its regular meeting Wednesday, Aug. 18. To access a digital version of the budget, visit

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