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Treasurer provides look into budget
NORTH BEND North Bend City Treasurer Elena
Montgomery wants residents to understand their taxes where their property taxes
go, what the city uses them for and what portion actually goes to North Bend.
"In this era of anti-tax initiatives, it's important for voters to know
how to vote on a particular tax so as not to eliminate taxes that pay for
services that the public needs and wants," Montgomery said.
She said residents should especially pay attention because when
initiatives such as 722, which was passed in November, come along, then
voters will understand that if they vote to cut taxes, they could be voting to
cut city-provided services, as well.
I-722 was a citizen-sponsored measure that, if not found
unconstitutional and overturned by the courts, will put a 2 percent limit on
property assessment tax increases and also roll back any tax or fee increases not
approved by voters from July through December of 1999. Currently,
I-722 awaits a February court date.
To understand the budget, know that first of all, only a portion of
the property taxes that North Bend residents pay actually go to the city
14 percent, in fact. Then, 13 percent goes to King County, 32 percent to
the Snoqualmie Valley School District and 26 percent to the state school
fund. Another 2 percent goes to emergency medical services, 2 percent to the
Port Authority, 6 percent to the hospital district and 5 percent to fund
King County libraries.
The money the city receives from property taxes must be stretched to
pay for all the services residents are accustomed to.
"A resident who owns a $200,000 home in North Bend and pays
$752 per year (or $63 per month) for property taxes, sales taxes and utility
taxes in the city" of North Bend, gets many services in exchange,
These services are: 24 hour/ seven-day-a-week police services, fire
services and emergency medical services; park, ballfield and trail
maintenance; street maintenance; enforcement of building standards and
engineering standards; planning for land development; legislation of local laws; and
accountability for public money.
"You be the judge," Montgomery added. "TV cable service is $52
per month [on] average, and one latte per day amounts to $68 per month.
Conversely, it's important that city officials acknowledge that the public
feels overbudgeted with taxes when taking into account payroll taxes,
property taxes to all the different entities that levy them, not just cities, and
sales taxes on goods they buy."
North Bend's entire 2001 budget, which is the amount of money it
takes to run the city including staff and services, is set at $13.6 million. The
general fund portion of the budget that receives revenues from property
taxes is set at $3.9 million. When initiatives like 722 pass, the general fund is
the first to feel the pinch.
The North Bend budget will be leaner in 2001 because City
Council members have decided to honor the public's desire to have taxes
minimized. They voted for a property tax increase of 2 percent instead of the
full 6 percent they were legally allowed to implement.
The budget system is much like a checkbook you can only
spend what's there. The city gets the largest chunk of revenue for its general
fund, 85 percent, from residents' property taxes. The rest comes from interest
and miscellaneous revenue, fines and forfeits, charges for services, such
as water and sewer, intergovernmental revenues, licenses, permits and
transfers of money.
Police services takes up 27 percent of the general fund, while fire
services takes up 15 percent. Engineering, planning and building amounts to
14 percent; administrative and financial services is at 13 percent; parks
takes 9 percent; flood control takes 5 percent; legislative services takes 2
percent; and legal and judicial services takes 3 percent. Central
services, which accounts for supplies, custodial services, utilities and
maintenance, uses 3 percent. Other miscellaneous expenditures use up 8 percent of
the budget, and finally, community-service grants are given 1 percent.
Montgomery said in order to balance the city's checkbook and
keep property tax increases to 2 percent, cuts were made in all departments.
To compensate for the decreased revenue, operation budgets for
each city department were cut, along with some legal expenditures and
community services, such as funding to paint the Mount Si Senior Center.
North Bend Councilwoman Elaine Webber said it's a shame for any
services to be cut. She wants more people to participate in the budget
process, which starts in August and ends in late November, so the city could learn
from residents how they would like the city to spend its money. This year, only
one resident spoke out about the budget during three public hearings.
Webber understands that most people don't have time to read a
city's budget when their lives are already busy, and she doesn't blame them
for wanting smaller tax increases.
"Having not been on the council and having somebody else
worry about [taxes] is easiest, and I can't fault anyone for not paying attention to
it," Webber said. "I don't blame people
for noticing it and being unhappy about [property tax increases] and
wanting to vote against it. Unfortunately, sitting down and figuring out why
the government is asking for more money and finding out what they're
doing with the money is a lot harder."
To make things easier, Montgomery provided information that
explains what changes were made to the upcoming year's budget. She and
Accounting Coordinator Stanley Lewis are working on a pamphlet that
will be distributed to community groups and will be available at City Hall.
The first news is good news water, sewer and solid waste utilities
will not face increases in 2001.
As for spending, a part-time community officer was added to the
policing program, and the domestic-violence advocacy program
was broadened. The two expansions contributing a cost of $16,000 per year.
Other priorities for the 2001 budget are to:
Secure additional water rights or wholesale water in order to lift
the building moratorium, which prevents residential and commercial
construction within city limits until more water rights are granted; to be paid
for with water revenues.
Build a $2.8 million public works facility by issuing revenue bonds
to be paid back with parks dollars, streets dollars, water, sewer and solid
Revise the city's transportation plan with street dollars, and fix
Build two blocks of sidewalks on Ballarat Street using
Transportation Improvement Board grant money.
Construct Tanner Trail, which will meander through town, using
federal recreation grant funding.
Continue downtown revitalization efforts with sales tax revenue
from the Safeway strip mall.
Copies of North Bend's budget will soon be available. For more in