Enumclaw City Council members talked dollars and cents during much of their most recent meeting, coming one step closer to finalizing an operating budget for the coming year.
Gathering remotely – with a couple of in-building City Hall exceptions – the council addressed the 2021 municipal spending plan in general, property tax collections in detail and a couple of soon-to-be-implemented utility rate increases.
With regard to the coming utility rate hikes, the council unanimously agreed to bump the cost of natural gas and solid waste services. A breakdown of the coming increases shows an overall rate increase of 5.38 percent for residential service, which includes a monthly service charge increase from $6.25 to $8.13 along with a 2 percent hike on the volume of gas used. The average residential customer would see an increase of $2.79 per month, based on the calculated average consumption. For commercial customers, there will be an overall rate increase of 1.88 percent which includes a $3 bump in the monthly service charge ($10 to $13) and a 2 percent volumetric increase. For those commercial customers the average overall increase figures to be $4.26 per month.
Also approved was an overall rate increase of 5.31 percent for low-income residential customers; this includes a monthly service charge increase from $4.38 to $5.69 and a 2 percent volumetric increase. Combined, the monthly increase is estimated at a bit less than $2.
Moments after increasing rates for the two utilities, the council took formal action to reject other rate hikes. According to the Enumclaw Municipal Code, rates for both water and sewer services are to jump annually in accordance with the Seattle-Tacoma Consumer Price Index. A memo from Public Works Director Jeff Lincoln explained that anticipated 2021 revenues, combined with reserve funds, make the increases unnecessary.
Quickly tackling an issue closest to property owner’ hearts (actually, their pocketbooks) the council approved a second reading of the 2021 property tax ordinance. A final vote will be taken during the council’s Dec. 14 session.
Information provided by Finance Director Stephanie McKenzie explained that the city anticipates collecting at a rate of $1.25 per $1,000 of assessed value. That means the owner of property (home and land) assessed at $400,000 will pay the city $500. That’s a decrease from this year, when a rate of $1.30 brought a tax bill of $520.
The total tax bill is much larger, as a number of other taxing entities add their collections. The final tally includes taxes for state and local schools, the local fire department and the King County Library District, among others.
The city’s full 2021 budget received a second reading last week and will be on the Dec. 14 agenda for final adoption. It includes all city revenues and expenditures for the coming year.
The agenda is the culmination of a long process that began during the summer and was presented by Mayor Jan Molinaro to the City Council in early October. The document was the subject of four council workshops and a pair of November public hearings.
The budget shows the city will have $65.8 million available (from beginning reserves and anticipated revenues). The budget calls for expenditures of more than $41 million, leaving reserve funds in excess of $24 million.
In other action during their Nov. 23 session, members of the Enumclaw City Council:
• Were told the next “Coffee with the Mayor” event is planned for 9 to 10 a.m. Monday, Dec. 7. As has been the case in recent months, the event is a virtual gathering. Anyone wishing to participate can receive a link by calling the city clerk’s office at 360-615-5608. Molinaro began hosting the monthly gatherings shortly after being elected mayor, giving citizens the opportunity to share concerns, register complaints or offer praise.
• Heard that the city is looking to fill two spots on the Arts Commission, where members must reside within the city limits. Also to be filled is a position on the Planning Commission, where members must reside within the Enumclaw Parks and Recreation service area. For an application and to obtain more information, visit: cityofenumclaw.net.
• Reappointed a handful of local citizens to volunteer positions on city boards and commissions. Signing on for another term are: Bryan Christiansen and Nick Cochran, Design Review Board; Barbara Braun, Human Services Advisory Board; Robert Webb, Park Board; Janet Berthon, Arts Commission; and Barbara Hull, Planning Commission. Berthon’s term expires at the close of 2023 and the rest run through the end of 2024.
• Were reminded that the drive-through Hometown Holiday celebration will take place Friday through Sunday, Dec. 4-6, at the Enumclaw Expo Center. The event was put together by the Chamber of Commerce and Expo Center staff to replace the traditional holiday parade that rolls along Cole Street through the heart of downtown. For details, visit: enumclawexpo.com.