As part of each year’s municipal budget, the Enumclaw City Council provides financial relief for agencies that do good work for the community.
The level of funding ebbs and flows with the state of the overall economy and, as a result, council generosity swooned during the era of the nationwide recession.
Now, with the economy brighter and cash flows healthier, the council and city administration are looking favorably at a number of causes for inclusion in the 2017 budget. Those were addressed during an Oct. 26 workshop and will be addressed as the council deliberates city spending for he coming year.
The first public hearing on the overall city budget took place Monday night, but citizens have another opportunity to weigh in. A second, and final, public hearing on the budget is set for Nov. 28. That comes during the council’s regularly-scheduled session, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 1339 Griffin Ave.
The council has the final say when it comes to funding outside agencies and causes. The seven-member board intends to cast a final vote on the 2017 budget during its Dec. 12 meeting.
The largest request – which was not included in Mayor Liz Reynolds’ proposed budget – has come from the Enumclaw Expo and Events Association. That group has asked for $50,000 and Executive Director Scott Gray made his pitch during the Oct. 26 budget hearing.
“This is very hard for me to do,” Gray began, admitting he hadn’t anticipated asking for city money to help make ends meet.
With that, Gray noted the association is pleased with the progress made during the past 18 months, particularly in terms of drawing new faces to Enumclaw. After Crystal Mountain, Gray surmised, the Expo Center is the No. 2 reason for tourists to visit the city.
“We need a jump start to promote ourselves,” Gray said, explaining the desire for a monetary infusion. The Expo Center’s fieldhouse has seen substantial improvements, he added, and “we need to let the world know it exists.”
Asked about strategies for boosting cash flow, Gray said the association is “trying to uncover everything we can that will bring in more revenues.” That means booking more events and boosting its rates.
Gray heard positive comments from a couple of council members. Chance LaFleur recalled the days when the city managed the Expo Center and was losing more than $50,000 annually and Juanita Carstens acknowledged the EEAA has made “tremendous strides.”
But, Carstens asked, what would happen if the council determined the city could not, or should not, provide the requested dollars?
Gray responded that operations would continue, though the financial situation would be tough at the start of the coming year. Key events, he said, are expected to be more profitable now that the association has a year of expertise.
The mayor and council are looking at a variety of other agencies to support in 2017.
• the visitor center, which operates out of the Chamber of Commerce office, is in line for $11,140, with dollars directed from two sources. The center has received $10,000 in the past, but a new means of funding is sweetening the pot. The Port of Seattle is offering grants to all cities in the county at a rate of $1 per resident; in Enumclaw’s case, that equates to $11,140. The city plans on directing $6,140 from the grant to the visitor center, in addition to a $5,000 municipal contribution.
• Green River Community College is looking at a $10,000 gift – half from the city’s general fund and half from the Port of Seattle grant – specifically so its Small Business Assistance Center can help Enumclaw entrepreneurs. The GRCC effort was funded in years past, but bypassed during times of city belt-tightening. A college representative said help has still been offered, but Enumclaw clients have been forced to travel to Auburn or Kent the past couple of years; the number of businesses receiving help has dropped, along with the number of personal contacts.
• the Enumclaw Historical Society has been identified for $1,500 to help cover the cost of utilities.
The city also calls upon its Human Services Advisory Board to make financial recommendations. Following the board’s lead, the city proposes the following.
• the Enumclaw Youth Center will receive $65,000 during the coming year, nearly returning to pre-recession funding levels. During 2016, the city provided $60,000.
• Plateau Outreach Ministries is in line for $15,000 for its utility voucher program, a $5,000 bump from the 2016 contribution, plus $5,000 for its rental assistance program. POM Director Britt Nelson said the agency provides one-time assistance to families “already in crisis mode.” More than 300 households receive help annually, she said.
• the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation is identified for $5,000 to help with its Neighbors Feeding Neighbors operation. The program is responsible for delivering hot meals to homebound senior citizens and the disabled, along with the “backpack program” that sends food home with needy students each Friday.