City of Enumclaw budget pieces come together

Enumclaw city officials are in the final stretch of a marathon race that will result in adoption of a working budget for the coming year.

It was back in August that Enumclaw’s department heads and City Hall staff began thinking about 2015 spending and revenues necessary to turn plans into action. Internal meetings stretched through September, a preliminary budget was released in October and public hearings were scheduled through November.

Now, the number-crunching is nearly complete. Members of the City Council were expected to finalize a 2015 property tax formula earlier this week and, on Dec. 8, a complete budget should get the council’s OK.

By state law, a balanced municipal budget must be adopted prior to the end of this year.

Budgets are massaged and manipulated as they move through channels, but Enumclaw’s 2015 document retains the key points from the preliminary budget released by Mayor Liz Reynolds in early October. That is, property taxes will be going up and utility rates will be hiked, bringing an increased cost of living for Enumclaw residents.

Property tax

As recommended, the council has chosen not only to take the 1 percent increase allowable by law, but also dip into some of the unused taxing capacity that had been built up when financial times were healthier.

The result is a property tax rate of $1.58 per $1,000 of assessed property value, up from $1.42 in 2014. For the owner of property assessed at $250,000, that brings a bump of $40 in the annual tax bill.

Utility rates

Residents will see increases in all four city utilities for the coming year.

A 2 percent hike has been authorized for both natural gas and garbage collection; a 5 percent increase in on the way for sewer charges; and the water rate, which is tied to the Consumer Price Index, is showing a 2.1 percent increase.

On top of the rate hikes, natural gas customers will see a 1 percent increase in the tax charged on gas purchases.

Funding outside agencies

A relatively small, but highly visible, part of the city’s annual budget deals with funding for various entities that do good work throughout the community.

In recent years, the amount directed to outside agencies jumped from a total of $32,000 in 2011 to $105,000 this year. The preliminary budget for next year identified spending of $111,000; that sum, however, has been sliced. While not yet adopted, the total last week sat at $70,000.

New to city funding was the Women, Infants and Children program, offered one day a week in Enumclaw as a satellite operation of the public health center in Auburn. Threatened with closure due to dwindling funding sources, the center was saved thanks to a coalition of public and private sources.

Enumclaw’s contribution was $10,000, to be equally divided between the next two years.

As part of the budget cut, Auburn Youth Services looks to receive $45,000 instead of the recommended $50,000; Plateau Outreach Ministries is pegged for %15,000 rather than the recommended $26,000; and the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce figures to receive $5,000, or  half of this year’s contribution.

Other entities that have been funded in the past – and were initially identified for funding in 2015 – are now looking at getting nothing at all. Chopped from the funding mix were Green River Community College, the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center, and the relatively new Neighbors Feeding Neighbors program.