Among the tricky maneuvers included in the crafting of an Enumclaw city budget is the longstanding tradition of funding “outside agencies” – organizations that do good work throughout the community but are not connected in any way to municipal government.
Members of the Enumclaw City Council considered a slate of requests during a late-October workshop and finalized their desires during a Nov. 13 council meeting. It was highly unlikely anything would change in advance of formal adoption of the 2018 city budget, which was planned for Monday of this week.
The funding of outside entities pits the desire to support those who do good deeds against the cold reality of a tight budget. Added to the mix is the often-stated belief that the city shouldn’t give public money to non-public agencies; that practice equates to a forced donation by those who contribute to city coffers by paying property taxes or sales tax.
In the end, the council considered 16 requests and appropriated funds for 10, often on a split vote.
The largest financial gift for 2018 is to Enumclaw Youth and Family Services, which will receive $70,000 from the city’s General Fund. Mayor Liz Reynolds, as part of her final budget process, had recommended the $70,000 amount, but council members weighed in with recommendations between $65,000 and $72,000.
Councilwoman Kim Lauk argued for the greater amount, stating “it doesn’t make a lot of sense” to restrict funding when more families are settling in town.
“If we’re really investing in our future and looking at long-range planning, then we need to look at our kids and make sure they have a safe place to go,” she said during the council’s Nov. 13 meeting.
Lauk’s motion to provide $72,000 failed, as did a motion by Councilwoman Juanita Carstens to fund at the $65,000 level. So, the mayor’s recommendation stood.
Also drawing council discussion were two requests by Plateau Outreach Ministries.
The first POM request was for $15,000 for utility vouchers. The agency provides the vouchers to residents having trouble paying their utility bill.
Councilman Steve Cadematori argued for the vouchers. “Essentially they will pay for themselves,” he said, noting that the money is eventually returned to the city. Additionally, he said, the financial assistance keeps vulnerable residents from “moving closer to homelessness.”
Councilman Chance LaFleur had first offered a motion to eliminate all funding for the voucher program. The motion failed, with only LaFleur and Carstens in support.
A second POM request was for cash to help down-on-their-luck residents pay their rent. The agency had requested $15,000, the city’s Human Services Advisory Board suggested $10,000 instead and the mayor’s proposed budget offered zero.
Cadematori suggested $7,500 to fund the program, a motion that was eventually passed. A stipulation was added, limiting rental subsidies to low-income senior citizens who reside within the city limits.
Finally, current councilman and mayor-elect Jan Molinaro made a last-ditch appeal to provide $5,000 to Green River College for its Small-Business Assistance Center. The program has been funded in the past and had made a $10,000 request this time around. Reynolds’ budget included no money for the program and the majority agreed.
Among other requests that were not funded: the city’s Tourism Advisory Board had asked for $50,000 for a “downtown makeover” project; the TAB also recommended $10,000 for seasonal decorations; the Rainier Foothills Wellness Foundation had sought $6,000 to support its Backpack Program that provides in-need children with food for weekends; and the Foundation also had asked for $5,000 for its Care Van service.
TOURISM EFFORTS FUNDED
Also during their first meeting in November, council members decided how they would spend $31,000 generated by local motels. A “lodging tax” is assessed on nightly rentals and the money can be used only for tourism and promotion.
The council’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee recommended $20,000 for the Enumclaw Expo Center, $10,000 for Visit Rainier and $1,000 for Arts Alive!, a local group supporting the arts.
All three recipients sponsor events that “are going to put heads in beds,” Lauk said.
The only question came from Carstens, who wondered about Visit Rainier’s commitment to Enumclaw. Cadematori noted changes had been made and Visit Rainier now has “a full marketing effort for Enumclaw events.”
Visit Rainier is charged with promoting events, activities and communities all around the mountain.
The recommendation of the Advisory Committee passed 6-1.