Give government the gift of good grief

December 10, 2013

Budget season ended last month. You missed it. You missed many graphs, many charts, many numbers, many questions and many answers. You also missed the opportunity to take part.

You know that saying, “If you don’t vote, you don’t get to complain?” That should apply to civic action and education in general, especially regarding local government. If you don’t recognize the many ways the city tries to cultivate civic interaction, then you lose out on a chance to both learn how your tax dollars are spent and complain about how the council decides to spend them.

Peter Clark

Peter Clark

From social media alerts, two public hearings and five open work sessions, only one citizen stood up to speak. That’s pretty poor representation for Issaquah’s 31,000 residents.

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Editorial

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.

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City Council questions budget balancing

October 22, 2013

The Issaquah City Council dove into the mayor’s proposed budget Oct. 14 and brought large questions about the use of ending fund balances.

While the majority of remarks made in the first televised meeting of budget season from the council concerned relatively small matters, members called into question the matter of pulling money out of the ending fund balance in order to correct over-spending or lack of revenue in individual departments.

According to the mayor’s budget, fiscal year 2012 had a beginning fund balance of $8.77 million in the general fund. In 2013, there was a beginning fund balance of $8.15 million. Next year has a budget of $7.97 million in its beginning fund balance and an expected ending fund balance of $7.55 million. This is compared with general fund expenditures that have risen by almost $5 million since 2012.

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Budget season opens with the mayor’s final budget

October 15, 2013

Mayor Ava Frisinger presented her final budget proposal, which includes $98.3 million in budgeted expenditures, to the City Council Oct. 7.

It includes adding a new human services manager and a police officer, increasing funding for “sustainable” efforts and $55,000 for a feasibility study into a campus to consolidate the locations of city services.

“I’m extremely proud to reflect on the last 16 years,” Frisinger told the council as she presented her budget to them. “Today, we’re planning for what’s next: a commitment to environmental protection, a strong economic base and a strong quality of life for our citizens.”

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City considers setting up contingency fund

September 17, 2013

City Finance Director Diane Marcotte introduced plans for a city contingency fund during the Aug. 5 regular City Council meeting.

Previously discussed during Marcotte’s presentations to the council as a part of new financial policies to explore, she said a contingency fund could help prepare for major unexpected expenses as well as improve the city’s bond rating.

The introduction for the agenda bill explains the motivation behind the idea.

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Issaquah Police Department to add patrol officer

December 11, 2012

Expect to see more police patrolling city streets next summer, after the City Council agreed to include dollars in the 2013 municipal budget for the Issaquah Police Department to hire another officer.

The council agreed in the $42 million general fund budget to hire another police officer and a part-time records staffer for the police department. The agency expects to fill both positions after July 1.

The general fund encompasses the dollars used to fund police and fire services, community development and planning, parks and recreation, and municipal government. The police department is the largest expense in the general fund — encompassing more than $8 million — followed by parks and recreation.

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City Council restores dollars for nonprofit organizations

December 11, 2012

By the numbers

Data from the most recent year available, 2011, illustrates how Issaquah ranks against other King County cities in per capita funding for human services.

Issaquah

  • Human services budget: $222,000
  • Funding formula: 1 percent of general fund
  • Per capita human services funding: $8.22

Bellevue

  • Human services budget: $2,792,312
  • Funding formula: inflation plus population growth
  • Per capita human services funding: $23.01

Bothell

  • Human services budget: $234,500
  • Funding formula: per capita
  • Per capita human services funding: $7

Kenmore

  • Human services budget: $289,000
  • Funding formula: 3 percent of estimated revenues
  • Per capita human services funding: $13.85

Kirkland

  • Human services budget: $571,880
  • Funding formula: per capita
  • Per capita human services funding: $11.52

Redmond

  • Human services budget: $664,235
  • Funding formula: per capita plus $74,500 per year in domestic violence funds
  • Per capita human services funding: $11.35

Sammamish

  • Human services budget: $176,000
  • Funding formula: no formula
  • Per capita human services funding: $4.29

Shoreline

  • Human services budget: $340,307
  • Funding formula: no formula
  • Per capita human services funding: $6.23

Woodinville

  • Human services budget: $66,501
  • Funding formula: no formula
  • Per capita human services funding: $5.86

Source: City of Issaquah

Representatives from a spectrum of organizations — nonprofit human services groups offering affordable housing, safe havens for domestic violence victims, assistance to struggling students and more — successfully lobbied City Council members Dec. 3 to stave off a $48,750 drop in funding for such programs.

The council agreed to allocate $280,750 in the $42 million general fund budget for human services grants, but only after a council committee pushed to increase the amount and local nonprofit organizations pleaded for the council not to eliminate $48,750 in funding.

Grants go to organizations such as Eastside Baby Corner, Friends of Youth and the Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank to offer services to residents from Issaquah and the Issaquah School District.

In a 4-3 decision, council members agreed to increase the amount budgeted for human services by $48,750 from the $233,250 the council recommended in earlier budget deliberations. The additional dollars for human services grants comes from the municipal rainy day fund.

Councilwoman Eileen Barber initiated the process to restore the human services funding.

Then, before the split decision, representatives from local human services organizations — including Catholic Community Services, Issaquah Community Services and LifeWire — beseeched the council to restore funds for grants.

“At a time when I see the needs rising among our students, and I see the return on investment for cities in investing in students while they’re still in school, I think it’s a critical time for you to consider being able to support organizations, such as the schools foundation, in retaining our current funding,” Issaquah Schools Foundation Executive Director Robin Callahan said.

Several referenced the Great Recession and the fragile economy recovery in pleas to the council.

“I believe that our nonprofits are still recovering from the recession,” Issaquah Food & Clothing Bank Executive Director Cori Kauk said. “Many of our local nonprofits haven’t rebounded yet and they still need your support. Now is really not a good time for cuts.”

Council President Tola Marts said the city did not intend to undercut human services organizations through the budget reduction.

“In a time when the state and the county are reducing funds — and I realize that puts even more strain on local budgets — I think the intent of the council when we did the budget was that we thought that was a strong position to take,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that it’s been perceived as a Grinchian position.”

The council acts on recommendations from the municipal Human Services Commission. Overall, commissioners received 60 grant applications totaling $366,283 in requests for 2013.

Commission Chairwoman Maggie Baker, disappointed about the proposed reduction in funding, pored over data from the U.S. Census Bureau to better quantify the need in the community.

“I realized that with $47,000 less, we weren’t going to be able to do the right thing for our 1,365 Issaquah neighbors 65 and over who live with at least one disability that keeps them from completing an activity of daily living, such as eating, dressing or bathing,” she said.

Issaquah Democrat Mark Mullet joins state Senate

December 4, 2012

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen (left) administers the oath of office to state Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, in the Senate chamber Nov. 30. Contributed

Issaquah City Councilman Mark Mullet joined the state Senate on Nov. 30 — 45 days before other freshman lawmakers convene in Olympia for the 2013 legislative session.

In a ceremony on the Senate floor, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen administered the oath to Mullet as the Democrat’s family members watched.

Mullet joined the Senate after a bruising contest against Snoqualmie Republican Brad Toft to represent the 5th Legislative District — a mishmash between suburban and rural communities stretched between Issaquah and Snoqualmie Pass.

The last senator to represent the district, Maple Valley Republican Cheryl Pflug, resigned from the seat in June to serve on a state board. Sammamish Republican Dino Rossi — senator from the district in the late 1990s and early 2000s — served in the role between Pflug’s resignation and Mullet’s arrival.

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Issaquah Democrat Mark Mullet joins state Senate

November 30, 2012

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Barbara Madsen (left) administers the oath of office to state Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, in the Senate chamber Friday. Contributed

NEW — 4:05 p.m. Nov. 30, 2012

Issaquah City Councilman Mark Mullet joined the state Senate on Friday afternoon, 45 days before other freshman lawmakers convene in Olympia for the 2013 legislative session.

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Residents can comment on 2013 city budget

November 27, 2012

The last chance for residents to comment on the 2013 city budget is soon.

City Council members plan to host a public hearing on the $89.5 million spending plan.

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 includes dollars for capital expenses and from other accounts.

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