November 19, 2013
City budget tight but new policies in place
The Issaquah City Council has zeroed in on a 2014 sustainable budget, but it took a lot of sweat to get there.
The mayor’s budget, presented last month, called on carry-over funds from this year to offset expenses for next year.
Thankfully, council members and city Finance Director Diane Marcotte are not accepting the notion. Along with close examination of proposed expenses came the task of adopting financial policies that will ensure the city never gets to the edge of a precipice.
Marcotte recommended “best practices” policies. With a focus on the city’s credit rating, the new policies call for a utility rate study every five years and the formation of a city contingency fund.
The adopted policies will keep a minimum of 8 percent of the total budget in an ending fund balance and aims for 15 percent. The city keeps this fund for unforeseen expenses or a downturn in the economy.
Council members also proposed a return of the allowed 1 percent annual increase in property taxes. We don’t like it, but understand it — to a point. It’s hard to accept that Issaquah’s city budget is so large and its reserves so small when the neighboring city of Sammamish is flush with money in spite of lower taxes.
Three decades ago, Issaquah longed for the revenues that commercial growth would bring to city and school coffers. Commercial growth came, yet the cry today is not much different.
The council should be applauded for keeping a close eye on its expenditures, and we look forward to seeing even more conservative fiscal oversight as 2014 gets underway.