The long and laborious process of crafting a municipal budget is playing out everywhere these days and things are no different in Enumclaw City Hall.
Mayor Liz Reynolds has submitted a proposed spending plan for 2017 – it’s available for public review – and varying elements of the budget are being reviewed by members of the City Council.
The system is straightforward: the mayor submits a proposal, but it’s up the council to approve a final version. The seven-member board has the ability to tinker with the original proposal, or make wholesale changes, as long as a budget is adopted by the end of the year.
Reynolds’ proposal for 2017 is based on optimism, with the dog days of the Great Recession something of a fading memory.
“Over the past years my budget message has been cautious and conservative,” is how Reynolds begins her overview of her 2017 fiscal plan, “and I am happy to finally be able to say that the ebb and flow of the economy certainly seems to be swinging in the positive side of the economic wave.”
With that, Reynolds has offered a budget that – while balanced – includes initiatives that look to the future.
Here are a few highlights from the mayor’s proposed budget:
• there’s generally good news on the property tax front, as local landowners could see their tax rates drop. Presently, the rate assessed by the city is about $1.53 per $1,000 of assessed property value; due to the formula for figures rates, the number could dip to $1.50 for 2017. Factored into that formula are such things as Enumclaw’s overall assessed value – which is increasing by about $68 million – and new construction.
Bottom line: the good news is that the property tax rate will likely drop and the city will assess less than the state allows. The kicker, however, is that assessed values have jumped; so, despite lower tax rates, a property owner’s final tax bill could be higher during the coming year.
• sales tax receipts should climb as the recession era fades. In Enumclaw, sales taxes are largely a byproduct of auto sales, restaurants, construction and a variety of retail, with an increasing contribution from online sales. The city is anticipating sales tax revenues of $2.5 million during 2017, an increase of about $128,000 from this year.
• a proposal that will hit local folks in the pocketbook has been talked about in the past and is formally proposed for 2017 – the creation of a stormwater utility. Presently, the cost of dealing with stormwater is handled through the general fund to the tune of more than $300,000 annually.
The city is proposing the creation of a separate “enterprise fund” for stormwater managements, as is done for traditional utilities like garbage, sewage and natural gas. Many cities throughout the region have already taken this step, creating a self-sufficient budget supported by citizen dollars.
• taking a leap into the future, city administration proposes spending $20,000 for a consultant who would offer concepts for a “downtown plaza and pavilion.” Such an idea has floated in city circles for some time, initially part of a 2000 Downtown Enumclaw Enhancement Plan. As envisioned, and pitched a year ago by Reynolds, plans could include things like a performance area, children’s play structure and an area for public art.
Crafting a working budget is a process that historically occupies at least the final third of a given year. Initial talks begin in late August and revenue estimates are firmed up in September, with public hearings in October. Enumclaw’s first hearing took place Oct. 12, with the next session planned for tonight, Wednesday. Two more council budget workshops are planned for Oct. 26 and Nov. 2.
The public’s first chance to weigh in on the 2017 spending plan comes with a Nov. 14 public hearing. The hearing will be part of the City Council’s regularly-scheduled meeting, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1339 Griffin Ave.
A second, and final, public hearing on the budget is set for Nov. 28, along with a first reading of the budget ordinance. A second reading of the budget ordinance, along with planned adoption of the budget, is slated for Dec. 12.