Issaquah mayor eyes property tax hike
October 9, 2012
By Warren Kagarise
Issaquah homeowners can expect to pay about $5 more in property taxes next year, if City Council members adopt a 1 percent rate hike to fund long-term projects.
The property tax increase, proposed Oct. 1 by Mayor Ava Frisinger, is not expected to generate much next year. If enacted, city officials expect to raise only $69,707 — a drop in a proposed $35 million general fund budget.
The decision to raise the property tax rate by the maximum amount allowed under state law, 1 percent, is projected to cost the average homeowner $4.75 per year.
“This small increase won’t generate significant revenues for the city in the short term,” Frisinger said in a budget address to the council. “It will, however, help us build capacity for the future. Over time, the cumulative effect of the increase enables the city to meet the rising cost of doing business, pay for infrastructure and match our community service needs.”
By the numbers
Mayor Ava Frisinger’s proposed 2013 municipal budget now heads to the City Council for adjustments. The council is required to adopt a budget by Dec. 31.
Source: City of Issaquah
In a speech focused on economic development, environmental and transportation projects, Frisinger said programs outlined in the 2013 municipal budget could require years or decades to come to fruition.
“From day-to-day expenses to larger, one-time initiatives, this budget forms the building blocks to creating a sustainable community with a strong economic base, a continued respect for the environment and a coveted quality of life for our citizens,” she said. “This vision, however, can’t be realized overnight. It takes time, commitment, partnerships and a dedication to consistent improvement.”
The proposed $35 million general fund encompasses the dollars used to fund police and fire services, community development and planning, parks and recreation, and municipal government.
The total proposed budget for next year — including dollars for capital expenses and from other accounts — is $89.5 million in the plan Frisinger sent to council members.
“It also reflects our challenging economic times by focusing on our essential services and using conservative and informed forecasts,” she said.
The announcement launched at least a month of deliberations between council members and city staffers to craft a budget for approval. The council is required to adopt the budget before Dec. 31.
The proposal maintains existing water and storm water rates for Issaquah customers, but the amount residents pay for sewer service is due to increase, after a King County decision to hike the rate.
Focus on long-term priorities
In a section dedicated to economic development, Frisinger focused on the proposed North Issaquah Local Improvement District — a costly plan to address traffic congestion and upgrade roads near Costco corporate headquarters.
Other priorities reflected long-term priorities for city leaders. The mayor included dollars in the 2013 spending plan to continue Issaquah Creek habitat restoration and continue work on a downtown park near Issaquah Creek.
“Improving these environmental lifelines will strengthen water quality, wildlife habitat and our community treasures for years to come,” she said.
Construction is also expected to start next year on a replacement weir for a problem-plagued Issaquah Salmon Hatchery dam. The city and state partnered to fund a modern replacement for the decades-old structure.
The question about Klahanie and other neighborhoods in unincorporated King County received some attention in the budget proposal. Frisinger recommended $100,000 to study a possible Klahanie annexation.
The public can join the 2013 municipal budget discussion at a series of City Council workshops in October and November. Find a complete calendar on the city’s website at http://bit.ly/VGZuXb.
In 2005, voters in the potential annexation area defeated a proposal to join Issaquah, even though 67 percent of voters approved annexation. Later, however, council members balked because only 47 percent of voters agreed to shoulder a portion of Issaquah’s debt.
The budget proposal is generous to human services programs. Frisinger recommended a $48,750 increase for efforts to address hunger relief, employment assistance and other needs. The spending plan also outlines $100,000 for A Regional Coalition for Housing, a King County affordable housing organization.
Overall, the proposed budget is slightly less than the $36 million general fund budget approved for 2012. The total city budget for the ongoing year — including dollars for capital expenses and from other accounts — reached $85.7 million, although the council adjusted the spending plan to account for staff changes at City Hall.
“During my years as mayor, I’ve presented 15 annual budgets to our City Council,” Frisinger said. “While projects, initiatives and budget numbers have changed over the years, one thing hasn’t — our commitment to sustainability.”
Frisinger intends to step down as mayor in January 2014, after voters choose the next leader in November 2013. The budget address reflected the changes in Issaquah during the past 14 years.
“In my original acceptance speech, back in 1998, I first pledged to help us become a more sustainable community,” Frisinger said. “Our vision, which is based on our community’s core values, hasn’t changed after all these years.”