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Enumclaw budget has no tax hike

The Enumclaw City Council is poised to pass a 2009 budget that ignores the ability to raise property taxes but includes an all-important general fund that spends more than it takes in.

The council passed a first reading of the 2009 spending plan during its Nov. 24 meeting and is expected to give its final blessing Monday night. By law, a budget has to be approved prior to the end of the calendar year.

On the subject of property tax, cities and towns are authorized to increase rates on property owner by as much as 1 percent per year. The first draft of the 2009 Enumclaw budget, as proposed by Mayor John Wise, called for implementing the 1 percent hike.

The revised version of the budget makes do without the increase.

The reasoning was spelled out in a memo from City Admin-istrator Mark Bauer.

“With the state of the economy clearly headed into, or existing in, a recession and no clear path forward, and due to the pending increases in utility rates for both water and wastewater, administration is not recommending the inclusion” of the 1 percent hike, Bauer wrote.

Including the allowable property tax increase would have cost Enumclaw property owners an additional $20,678.

The council is reserving the right to implement the increase somewhere down the road, however.

Cities are permitted to “bank” their annual 1 percent and implement the increase later. Council members are choosing to do that, making it official by passing a resolution Nov. 24.

The budget heading toward passage calls for total spending of slightly more than $63 million. More than half of the budget is eaten up through employee salaries and benefits.

The general fund – which pays for police and fire protection, social services, parks and recreation activities and more – totals more than $9.7 million. The budget, as it now stands, calls for a $353,000 shortfall when comparing anticipated revenues with planned expenditures. The difference is coming from the city’s ending fund balance or reserve account.

In other action during their Nov. 24 meeting, council members:

• Noted that another open house to discuss site plan proposals for the Enumclaw Expo Center grounds is planned for 6 p.m. Monday in City Hall council chambers.

• Passed a resolution outlining Newaukum Creek restoration efforts planned for the coming year. Work will be done in conjunction with King County.

Reach Kevin Hanson at khanson@courierherald.com or 360-802-8205.

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