City of Enumclaw budget approved by council

Dollars and cents are traditionally the primary order of business during December’s gathering of the Enumclaw City Council. That held true last week when the city’s 2016 budget received a formal blessing.

The council authorized the next year’s spending plan during its Dec. 14 session and also in keeping with tradition cancelled its second meeting of the month.

The budget generally reflects the mood of the nation, which is enjoying renewed confidence in the economy.

Councilman Chance LaFleur, a major player in this year’s budget deliberations, recalled being introduced to the term “deficit spending” when he joined the council four years ago. This time around, he noted, the seven-member group was able to pass a document that could be considered balanced.

“It’s only $7,400,” LaFleur said, but the 2016 budget is in the black.

Mayor Liz Reynolds shared his sentiments.

“Your city is in a pretty good financial state,” she said, noting that arriving at a balanced budget required a series of tough decisions during the recession years.

While passing the budget without debate, the council addressed a couple of matters relating to revenues and expenditures.

First, as anticipated, the council increased sewer rates by 3 percent, effective Jan. 1. That move was anticipated in the budget.

City Administrator Chris Searcy noted the rate bump exceeds the regional Consumer Price Index, but noted the city’s desire to implement smaller, more frequent, increases, rather than a large rate hike somewhere down the road. Within the sewer utility, Searcy said, there will be capital projects coming that will require additional funds.

The sewer utility is one of the city’s “enterprise funds,” meaning it must take in as much as it spends.

Making a slight amendment to the prepared budget, the council unanimously followed a recommendation of Councilman Mike Sando and earmarked $15,000 for two projects. The source of the money is the city’s lodging tax.

The council OK’d a $10,000 allocation to VisitRainier, a nonprofit organization that strives to promote tourism around Mount Rainier, and $5,000 to Spectrum Creative Alliance, a group that puts on an arts program.

In other items during their Dec. 14 meeting, members of the council:

Watched the swearing-in ceremony of fellow Councilman Morgan Irwin by City Attorney Mike Reynolds. Irwin had previously been appointed to the council and was elected in November; that’s why he was sworn in last week, Reynolds explained. Others who were elected in November, but will join the council for the first time, will be sworn in during the first meeting in January. Those two are Jan Molinero and Kimberly Lauk.

Said goodbye to Darrel Dickson and Jim Hogan, who were attending their final meetings as members of the council. Hogan was the longest-serving member of the group, having joined in June 2003, while Dickson wrapped up a four-year term. Each received a plaque and Enumclaw afghan.

Heard of a contract extension that deals with biosolids produces at the city’s wastewater treatment plant. For another five years, those solids will be trucked to Eastern Washington, where they are applied to wheat fields in Douglas County.

Public Works Director Scott Woodbury said the program provides a beneficial use for the sludge that would otherwise be landfilled. Searcy, who had an opportunity to visit the Douglas County destination, noted that expert analysis shows the biosolids yield a better harvest than chemical fertilizers.