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Enumclaw budget news is gloomy

Like communities across the nation, Enumclaw is beginning the process of drafting a 2012 budget fraught with financial difficulty.

A dismal general scenario – lagging revenues and increasing costs – has been widely assumed, but was put into print Friday. Mayor Liz Reynolds’ preliminary budget was released, validating the gloomy expectations.

“For the past several years, starting with the 2010 budget, city government has noticeably contracted,” Reynolds wrote in her introduction to the 2012 budget. “Failing revenues and rising costs have forced reductions across the entire organization.”

Any hope of a financial turnaround, the mayor wrote, was dashed when the state’s September forecast predicted several more years of economic turmoil and high unemployment. Several years into a national recession, the impacts are evident in factors that help shape the municipal budget: delinquencies in utility payments, foreclosures of personal and business properties, a significant decrease in local property values and continued local and regional unemployment.

Reynolds’ preliminary budget shows bad news in the general fund, the portion of the budget that pays for essential services like police protection, parks and recreation, senior and youth services, street maintenance and city administration. The fund begins with assumed total revenues of about $7.74 million and anticipated expenditures of nearly $8.1 million.

The proposal is to make ends meet by slicing reserves from approximately $1.12

A major impact on the 2012 proposed budget is a property tax rollback stemming from the city’s annexation into the larger, local Fire District 28. In-town residents previously paid taxes to the city to support fire services but will now pay into District 28. City Council members were adamant that the city roll back its collections by 89 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value while, at the same time, the district begins imposing its tax levy.

The proposed budget’s bottom line shows decreases in real estate excise tax collections, a drop in investment income, fewer dollars from building and planning permits and less in the way of utility consumption – all while sales tax revenues are expected to remain stagnant.

The budget will impact the city payroll is several ways, if the mayor’s proposal is adopted by the council. Hit the hardest is the city library, where Reynolds has proposed elimination of the library director, a library page and temporary help on Sundays. It’s proposed that library hours be reduced to 32 hours per week, including a Sunday closure.

The proposal comes at a time when the city is still looking at annexing into the King County Library System, a move that would require voter approval.

The mayor’s proposed budget is an early step in a process that will play out during the coming weeks. Council members will delve into budget specifics and there will be public hearings prior to adoption in December.

 

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