Enumclaw City Council unanimously authorizes budget with tax, utility increases

Enumclaw City Council

In one of their final, official acts of 2014, members of the Enumclaw City Council authorized the spending of nearly $36 million during the year to come.

Council members authorized a 2015 budget on Dec. 8, then – in keeping with council tradition – cancelled their final scheduled meeting of the year.

By law, Washington’s cities and towns must submit a balanced budget before the end of the calendar year. Most communities, like Enumclaw, handle that task in early December.

Adopting a municipal budget is a daunting task that occupies much of City Hall’s time and attention during the final quarter of the year. Preliminary discussions began even sooner, starting in August.

In the end, the council adopting a spending plan that covers all the bases and meets legal requirements. And, despite the hours and energy invested, there was still some haggling in the final minutes prior to adoption.

The 2015 budget includes a general fund portion totaling slightly more than $9 million. The general fund is where the most-visible city functions exist – police protection, services for children and senior citizens, parks and recreation offerings and things that keep the city operating on a day-to-day basis.

Outside the general fund are essential functions like garbage collection, water, sewer and natural gas distribution. All are “enterprise funds” where the money spent has to match the dollars generated without general fund subsidy.

The bottom line in the 2015 budget is that Enumclaw residents will pay more to live in town. Some key financial elements of the 2105 budget document include:

• Property taxes were increased 1 percent, as allowed by law. The council also exercised its authority to dip into its “banked capacity” and raised property taxes a bit more. For the owner of property assessed at $250,000, the annual tax bill will increase about $40 in 2015.

• Utility taxes also are expected to increase, bringing another hit to household budgets. A 2 percent hike was authorized for both natural gas and garbage collection; a 5 percent increase is 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.