Mayor unveils proposed 2011 city budget

October 5, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Issaquah leaders plan a slight increase in city spending for next year, as the effects of the recession diminish and large construction projects continue.

Mayor Ava Frisinger has proposed a $30.4 million general fund budget for next year — a minor uptick from the $29.8 million general fund budget approved by the council last December. The proposed budget does not include recommendations for a property tax hike or rate increases. The plan does not cut city positions.

Frisinger characterized the proposed budget as austere, a nod to the uncertain nature of the economic recovery.

“We try to focus on the things that are the core functions of the departments,” she said. “I count on the department directors to tell me which things, if they are not done, are going to have dire consequences.”

The city deferred some maintenance and delayed building upgrades in order to cut costs last year. Frisinger said residents might notice frayed edges at municipal buildings as a result.

“The fact that the carpet is worn and terrible-looking over at City Hall Northwest — which is true — is it visually awful or it something that’s harmful?” she asked. “What’s the consequence going to be?”

Frisinger presented the spending plan to City Council members Oct. 4. The announcement launched at least a month of deliberations between council members and city staffers to produce a final budget.

The council must approve the spending plan by the end of the year; the decision is scheduled for Dec. 21.

Frisinger faces a challenge to maintain services and to incorporate annual goals for the city set by council members into the budget.

The council has laid out ambitious plans to make Issaquah a mountain-biking destination and re-examine the delicate issue of a possible Klahanie annexation.

The city shrunk contributions to most nonprofit organizations last year, but preserved dollars for human services programs. The latest budget proposal holds the line on funding most nonprofit programs.

The city is braced for increased demand for human services programs in case King County leaders enact a proposal to slash social spending to help bridge a $60 million budget gap.

The construction slowdown last year left city coffers emptier, due to the drop off in building permit fees. The city has pulled in more money from building permits in 2010 due to construction of the Swedish Medical Center and YWCA Family Village in the Issaquah Highlands. The amount the city receives from sales tax revenue has also rebounded to some extent after a round of retail closures last year. Sports Authority and other businesses filled empty storefronts throughout 2010.

Frisinger presented the last budget days after the layoffs of municipal employees. The mayor and other municipal leaders pledged to consider additional cuts, but the city has not had to resort to layoffs since the initial round in September 2009. The city also offered incentives to encourage several longtime employees to retire. Issaquah has about 220 city employees.

Besides the eliminated positions, the city has a left a position vacant in the Parks & Recreation Department in order to reduce costs.

Frisinger said the proposed budget puts the city on a solid foundation as the economy recovery continues.

“We are taking measures to keep expenditures low — which is appropriate — and at the same time, we are able to move ahead when the economic times improve,” she said.

Get involved

The public can attend City Council budget workshops. Find a calendar of workshops and deliberation sessions here. Read the complete budget here.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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