Sequim proposes $38.4 million budget for 2019

SEQUIM — Reconstructing Fir Street, doing more for the arts and helping the Water Reclamation Facility smell better are all on tap for the city of Sequim’s budget next year.

Part of the proposed $38.4 million budget in 2019 also includes a 6 percent water utility rate increase and 2 percent sewer rate decrease despite the city seeing higher-than-expected revenues — about 17 percent — than budgeted this year.

“This budget is a balancing act between meeting the increasing demands of a growing community and improving service levels within the constraints of our resources,” City Manager Charlie Bush wrote in his budget message.

City staff estimated about $10.4 million in sales tax revenues in 2019 coming in, a 4 percent increase from what was budgeted.

Sue Hagener, Sequim director of administrative services, said city staff could designate excess funds for one-time projects such as $10,000 for code compliance software and $13,000 for public records software, $30,000 for a municipal court cost assessment study and $50,000 for a cost assessment of John Wayne Marina.

During discussions Monday, City Council member Brandon Janisse suggested looking into costs for a lobbyist for finishing the Simdars interchange on U.S. Highway 101 allowing traffic to enter the highway to the west.

“I think with it being such a big project, it might be prudent to have a lobbyist,” he said.

“With such a big dollar amount (for the project), I think we should go in for it if we have the money to support it.”

Bush said in his experience, a lobbyist could cost about $50,000 a year or less for focusing on one issue.

City Council members agreed to ask city staff to investigate costs.

However, Ted Miller and Candace Pratt said they are philosophically against hiring a lobbyist.

“It might work because nothing else has,” Miller said.

“If a lobbyist will get it across the goal line then I’m on board,” Pratt said.

Residential impact

Following a 2013 utility rates study, city staff’s 2019 proposal for utility changes with a 6 percent increase in water rates and 2 percent decrease in sewer rates averages to about 50 cents more per month for each user, Hagener said.

The study proposes a 4 percent increase in both water and sewer rates annually, but next year’s proposal for a reduced sewer rate stems from the growing number of accounts, she said.

Similar to previous years, a low-income discount remains available.

City staff also propose invoking a 1 percent property tax levy increase on households allowed by law.

Previously, Hagener said the increase brings in about $13,000 to $14,000 more each year for the city. Those 61 years and older and disabled residents making $35,000 or less per year are eligible for exemptions.

Renting the Guy Cole Event Center could be more costly, too.

Staff propose raising the rates across the board, for example to $125 for the hall or kitchen for a city resident (from $90), and to $150 for non-city-resident (from $100) and $300 (from $200) for commercial.

The damage deposit could go up to $200 for renters, too.

Council members generally favored the increases except Mayor Dennis Smith who felt the increases were too high.

Projects and payments

The city’s largest capital project, reconstructing Fir Street, tentatively begins in January and is scheduled to last for 18 months. The project was delayed from last summer due to paperwork issues and the 2019 budget includes about $2.4 million in streets, water and sewer funding from various funds, grants and fees.

Crews will rework the road from Sequim Avenue to Fifth Avenue to include new sidewalks, bike lanes, curbs and gutters, stormwater drains and more.

Along with Fir Street, Sequim anticipates about $6.3 million in capital projects for 2019.

Some items include:

• $33,000 for a mechanical filtering odor device at the Water Reclamation Facility.

• $50,000 for a parks Impact Fee Study.

• $100,000 for completing the breakout rooms in the Guy Cole Event Center.

• $219,000 (from grants) for upgrading the stormwater drainage at the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Washington Street .

• $88,000 to redirect storm drains and treat them before reentering Bell Creek on North Brown Road.

• $561,000 for pavement rehabilitation.

• $150,000 for coordinating traffic lights on Washington Street.

• $836,000 for a new Doe Run lift station bringing sewage of Bell Hill to Fox Hollow Road.

• Various emergency funds for streets ($50,000), water ($100,000) and sewer ($200,000).

Along with bringing on new projects, Hagener said the city looks to pay off an older project at $3.6 million in sewer debt that helped upgrade water pollution control at the Water Reclamation Facility.

She said rather than paying it off in January 2030, the city could use one-time funds to pay it in 2019 and save about $476,000 in interest fees.

With excess funds, city staff also proposed putting more toward paying off Sequim Civic Center construction costs. The city pays about $665,000 each year but for 2019, staff suggested increasing it to $775,000 using one-time public safety wax funds ($315,000), real estate excise tax, REET, ($105,000) and general funds ($335,000) to help save for a future payment to pay off the bond debt sooner.

Staffing and contracts

Following retirements, attrition and consolidation, city staff proposed adding the equivalent of 4.77 full-time employees in 2019, including a police officer, an administrative assistant for Public Works and Department of Community Development, an associate engineer, a maintenance project worker and a seasonal public works employee at the Water Reclamation Facility.

They also asked for a part-time arts coordinator, which City Council members agreed to Monday.

In total, salaries and benefits will go up for the city about 9.7 percent from $8.2 million last year to just over $9 million in 2019.

Hagener said some of the new positions, including the associate engineer and maintenance worker, will be paid for by various funds, depending on projects they work on.

City staff also proposed continuing health and human service contracts at $75,000 while allocating $30,000 formerly used to support the YMCA of Sequim for other contracts as needed.

Miller said he doesn’t see the contracts as charity but rather “services for the city.”

Funding for the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce and its visitors information center could increase to a little more than $84,000 because of rising costs.

The city also proposes $15,000 for an Economic Development Council contract for services.

City Council members tentatively will conduct budget public hearings Nov. 12 and Nov. 26 at the Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St.

For more on the city’s budget, visit www.sequim wa.gov or call 360-683-4139.

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Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].

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