News

Snoqualmie budget tops $14 million

SNOQUALMIE _ In 2000, the city of Snoqualmie's budget will

exceed $14 million for the first time.

The total of $14,380,463 constitutes an increase of about 10

percent over 1999's $12,815,796 spending level. Notably, the approved plan

_ which comes in the face of a shortfall of mitigation dollars from

Snoqualmie Ridge and the loss of some monies as a result of I-695 _ includes

increases for capital funding projects, emergency services and three new

employee positions.

The city will achieve its balanced budget through a combination of

cutbacks or planned reductions in several areas and increased revenues in

others, while relying on the extensive use of government grants to fund most

of the capital improvements.

Snoqualmie anticipates substantial increases in tax revenues

totaling $1,184,000, or 33 percent more than last year. The expected tax

revenue increases include $14,000 in real and personal property tax; $245,900

in sales and use tax; $65,000 in electric utility tax; $25,000 in the city

utility tax. Conversely, the city expects to see substantial savings in

departments such as buildings and engineering, where budget reductions should

save $838,638.68.

Several issues loomed over the budget process. Perhaps the largest

impact was the scheduled discontinuance of shortfall funding

from Weyerhaeuser Real Estate Company (WRECO) at the end of June. As

part of the agreement with the city for Snoqualmie Ridge, WRECO has

been paying to cover the salaries and benefits for planning, accounting and

police employees who were hired as a result of the development. The

funds stop June 30; the city will then have to cover the personnel costs,

which city Finance Director Shirley Leonard said total about $110,000.

"In general government, only five city employees were brought on

due to Snoqualmie Ridge," she stated.

With the shortfall, Snoqualmie will assume full funding responsibility

for two police officer positions while taking greater responsibility for

several other slots, including the city administrator (.75 Full-Time Equivalent,

or FTE), city clerk (.75 FTE), treasurer (.75 FTE) and senior account

clerk (1.5 FTE).

In addition, the city will hire a new account clerk in January -

funded through anticipated utility revenues - and hopes to add two firefighters

in July.

"We determined what were the council's priorities and wound up

hiring only one person this year," said Snoqualmie Mayor R.

"Fuzzy" Fletcher. "That position's pay will

be covered by increased utility fees resulting from more hookups in

the Ridge. There will be no added cost to the general fund."

Concerning the planned hiring of two additional firefighters,

Fletcher said the city would revisit the issue in July and see if the money is available.

Above and beyond assuming funding for two full-time law

enforcement officers, the city is looking at

increasing emergency services spending by about 16 percent. The police

budget will see an increase of about 17 percent, rising from $718,065 in 1999

to $871,616, while the general emergency services fund will increase

12 percent, from $9,400 to $10,700. Fire department funding was upped

from its 1999 level of $470,425 to a planned $594,280, an increase of slightly

over 20 percent.

By comparison, North Bend's public safety budget for 2000

totals $834,000. According to North Bend's Finance Officer Elena

Montgomery, the funding level _ for a population

of 3,815 _ totals 37 percent of the entire city budget. Snoqualmie's

emergency services budget _ incorporating law enforcement, emergency

management, fire control and police equipment and covering a residential

population of 2,020 - is $1,501,596, or about 10 percent of the total city

budget.

Leonard advised that part of the overall 16 percent increase was a

result of capital improvement costs that weren't on last year's budget.

These included an ambulance payment and funding for the completion of the

public safety building.

In 1999, police and general emergency service spending exceeded

the budgeted amounts by $9,970.35 and $1,640.97 respectively.

Conversely, the city had a surplus on its fire operations, coming in $50,677.14

under budget. Government-wide, in 1999 Snoqualmie took in

$1,220,165.63 more than it expected to spend. According to Leonard, the monies

were carried over to this year's budget.

The Snoqualmie City Council's budget has also risen, from

$28,100 to $33,300, or about 15 percent. The increase is partly due to an increase

in stipends for new council members from $250 to $500 per month.

Marcia Korich-Vega and Richard Kirby will receive the raise, and an

additional $100 per month if either is elected Mayor Pro Temp, according to

deputy clerk Deb Whalawitsa.

Again, by comparison, North Bend pays its council members

$400 per month.

In other expenditures, Snoqualmie is planning on starting or

continuing several major capital improvement projects next year with much of

the money coming from developer mitigation, grants or bonds. A total

of $1.52 million will go towards construction of a new public works

building, with an additional $3.5 million going towards a new fire station

on Snoqualmie Ridge. The PW building will be funded through $920,000

in mitigation funding from Weyerhaeuser and $600,000 in

matching funds from the city. The fire station will be funded through a

debt-bonding loan.

On the down side, several local agencies took a hit when

Snoqualmie zeroed their supporting funds. The agencies include

Sno-Valley Children's Services _ which lost $6,000; the Snoqualmie Valley

Historical Museum _ $2,000; Mount Si Senior Center _ $1,500; and

Human Services _ which received a cut of $2,350.

"The council made a choice to not fund any social services the first

part of the year," said Mayor Fletcher.

"We will look at it again in July after the shortfall ends and we have a true

picture of our financial future."

Interim Children's Services director Nancy Whitaker expressed

disappointment over the city's decision, but said she understood the position

the city was in.

"We haven't heard anything official from them," Whitaker stated.

"Of course, it will be hard for us to lose funding; it always is. I think we

got about $2,000 from Snoqualmie last year and we certainly weren't

expecting anything more.

"We are receiving our allotment from North Bend and we received

an allotment from the King County Council, thanks to Brian

Derdowski and Louise Miller," she added.

"I guess we'll just have to work harder at our auction."

Finally, WRECO ended mitigation funds for additional police patrols

at Snoqualmie Ridge. Director of Public Safety _ and Acting

City A0dministrator _ Donald Isley said Monday the funding had been used

to pay for additional coverage at the development, using several

Snoqualmie police reserve officers. The Ridge will continue to see regular police

patrols and protection at a level consistent with the remainder of

Snoqualmie, provided by regular, full-time officers.

In the meantime, the city has its balanced budget. "We had to

make sure that when we get to July 1 and the Weyerhaeuser payments end,

we don't end up in a hole," Fletcher added.

"It's a lean budget, carefully thought out. The council, mayor

and staff had twice as many meetings this year than last year in work studies

and the like."

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