Additional police officer, skate park relocation included in final budget
November 26, 2013
By Peter Clark
The 2014 city budget, with more than $97 million in planned expenditures, passed unanimously last week after the City Council removed $300,000 worth of expenses and added $400,000 in revenue.
During its Nov. 18 regular meeting, the council put its final approval on the annual budget after four long work sessions and two public hearings that gathered no criticism. It allows for an additional police officer, funding for relocating the skate park and a new executive human services position. The new additions will cost more than $470,000. In order to add enough revenue to cover the expenses, council approved a 1 percent increase in property taxes.
“The 2014 budget is a balanced budget that continues our commitment to the quality of living to the citizens of Issaquah,” Financial Director Diane Marcotte said. “This goes very much in alignment with our emphasis in sustainability. It maintains our cash reserves at near current levels, and continues to meet our recently adopted financial policies and budget policies.”
Through multiple sessions with members of the administration, council members grew concerned about the city using leftover money to balance the budgets of departments that overspent. In order to put the city back on a sustainable path, the council requested the administration lop $300,000 off the budget and find another $400,000 in revenue.
Notably, they cut funding for a city campus feasibility study, a business marketing plan and a kitchen remodel for Tibbett’s Creek Manor.
Additional revenue was created with a slight increase in site work and land-use fees, as well as the added 1 percent to property taxes. The property tax increase was the first Issaquah has passed in six years. Marcotte said the city expects to receive an additional $70,700 from the hike. The increase will mean an additional $3.83 per year for a homeowner of a $440,000 house.
“The result of all these additions and subtractions means that revenue exceeds expenditure by a modest amount, without relying on an ending fund balance or the local improvement district guarantee fund,” Council President Fred Butler said.
Though he supported the campus feasibility study and the business marketing plan initially, Butler and other council members said they believed they needed to step back and get a clearer city vision before investing the city’s money in the projects.
The passed budget does not reflect the recently passed parks bond levy or the future vote on a potential Klahanie annexation. The bond would increase homeowner taxes by 10 cents per $1,000 of assessed value for the next 20 years.
The budget process took a different form than usual under Marcotte. It was her first full year of presenting the information to the council. Instead of a line-by-line review of departments, Marcotte presented the budget by separate funds. This reordering of information resulted in a number of questions, but the council agreed it assisted in creating more transparency.
“We found the budget process resulted in a better understanding as well as increased transparency and provided us an opportunity to discuss the budget in a different light,” Butler said.
Additionally, the meetings were broadcast on city station ICTV 21 for the first time, and are available at Issaquah’s Youtube.com channel at youtube.com/cityof-issaquah.
“This was the first year to have the budget meetings on camera and I think that’s great,” Councilman Tola Marts said. “We have a rep for being boring and I’ve heard that we never disagree.”
He assured citizens that the council took taxpayer money seriously.
“The first thing you learn as an elected official is that residents care about the money we take,” he said, saying the council dove into the minutiae of how that money is spent. “If you take a look at the budget process this year, you will see that we did that. If you ever have concerns about how municipal government looks after your money, I encourage you to take a look at the process we went through this year.”
The full budget is available at issaquahwa.gov/budget.