Enumclaw budget takes ‘wait and see’ approach

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald

Enumclaw residents concerned with how the city spends its money can view the proposed 2009 budget online or - if really enthused about making a difference - testify at one of the public meetings scheduled during the next month.

Like cities and towns of all sizes throughout the United States, Enumclaw is being pinched by the economic malaise gripping the country.

That has brought about a spending plan for the coming year that is “healthy but guarded,” according to City Administrator Mark Bauer. By law, the city must adopt a balanced budget before the end of the calendar year.

Bauer and city department heads have worked in recent months to crunch numbers that resulted in a preliminary budget offered Oct. 17 by Mayor John Wise. Final adoption of the budget requires a majority vote of the seven-member city council, an action planned for Dec. 8.

Introducing his proposed budget, Wise wrote, “2008 has brought us one, if not the most, challenging financial years nationally in the history of our country.” Locally, he added, the city has been impacted by declining home sales, a reduction in sales tax revenues, high fuel costs and a downturn in interest income.

“Overall, the city is in stable financial shape going into 2009,” Wise wrote, noting that the budget was written with a “a close eye on the ever changing, mostly downward, economy.”

The 2009 budget has been balanced, he noted, through “a combination of cuts, position freezes and reserves.”

The budget does not call for cuts in city staffing, but takes a “wait and see” approach. Bauer said a hiring freeze will continue to keep three positions unfilled and a fourth position - an assistant manager for the city-owned swimming pool - will be removed from the budget.

The total proposed budget for 2009 is slightly more than $61 million. That’s almost $38 million less that the 2008 budget, but the difference is primarily due to the anticipated completion of the new wastewater treatment plant. Work began in 2007 and should be finished by mid-November.

As the city drafts its annual budget, household budgets will be impacted accordingly. The proposed 2009 budgets calls for increases in two utility rates - a 25 percent increase in the wastewater (sewer) rate and a 13 percent increase in the water rate. The city is not looking at increases for natural gas or garbage collection.

  • Want to weigh in on the city’s proposed 2009 budget? Public testimony will be allowed during City Council budget workshops slated for 7 p.m. on four consecutive Wednesdays, beginning tonight. A formal public hearing on the budget is planned for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 24 during a session that also will include the official reading of the budget ordinance.