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Snohomish’s city budget grows, but must evaluate sustainability

SNOHOMISH — Mayor Linda Redmon’s preliminary $80 million two-year budget through 2024 adds more community services, outlines goals for modernizing the city and gives more residents a seat at the table.
“I want to ensure this budget fits with what Snohomish residents want,” Redmon said in her address.
The proposed budget adds four employees. One would create detailed data maps and another would focus on maintaining the Carnegie Building.* Redmon said she’d like to see the Carnegie Building turn into more of a community space.
The city will launch an emergency preparedness and education campaign. It also plans to create a community assembly of neighborhoods, Community Engagement and Strategic Initiatives director Shari Ireton said.
While Redmon is recommending a 1% property tax increase, her presented budget is not dependent on a 1% tax increase to cover what's in the proposed budget, Redmon told the Tribune.
The City Council, though, will soon have to start making choices on how to ensure the budget is sustainable into future years as labor costs will be rising, Redmon told the council last week. The options are to either collect more tax revenue or cut services. These costs include general staff wage increases agreed to through union contracts and a $460,000 increase in the city’s contract with the Sheriff’s Office to keep a staff of 19 police personnel.
Redmon’s biennial budget spends $80 million and has a projected revenue of $62 million.
A big part of this budget commits $50 million toward expenditures the city either put off from doing or will need to prepare for. Two major undertakings are replacing the water pipes in the older center of the city and building a new sewer trunk line northward.
The city is working from a $48 million starting place for its total fund balance. It would end the biennium with $29 million. A chunk of this is federal money received through the American Rescue Plan Act. Pre-pandemic, the city had a $28 million fund balance when prior Mayor John Kartak released his first biennial budget in 2018. His second biennial budget released in 2020, which came after the first rounds of federal pandemic funding, was working with just shy of $35 million in reserves.
Two revenue options are to add a cable tax or levy a stormwater utility tax.
Another option that got the most attention last week is to increase property taxes above the 1% state limit. The city has the authority to go bigger than 1% because in years past the City Council skipped taking a 1% tax increase, creating a “bank.” This “banked” property tax authority accumulates over time.
Redmon said she will not be asking council to use the banked property tax.
The city will be working toward creating a transportation device framework that includes pedestrians and bicyclists into future road designs, called Complete Streets
Park projects for the new year include Averill Field (see last week’s Tribune) and improving Homestead Park.
The budget allocates for 62 employees, plus seasonal workers.
The city’s future plans will also consider climate change and social equity in developing policies. The city government is evaluating conducting a public-private partnership to create a low-income housing project in the city. It will also scope out whether it can build a new civic campus which would include City Hall.
The mayor’s salary is kept to $18,000. Only City Council can change the salary amount.
Redmon’s revised, final budget proposal will be released Nov. 10. The City Council is asked to adopt that budget Nov. 15 and there will be a final budget hearing.

 

 

 

* - CORRECTION

In the Oct. 26 story, “Snohomish’s city budget grows, but must evaluate sustainability,” the story reported that the proposed budget adds a person to market the Carnegie Building. This is incorrect. The proposal adds a maintainence person for the Carnegie. The marketing work is already being done at the city. The Tribune regrets the error.

 

  

 

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