One of the capital projects slated for 2024 includes replacing four timber bridges between Carrie Blake Community Park and the Reuse Demonstration Site across Bell Creek. It’s estimated to cost about $350,000 for the project. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

One of the capital projects slated for 2024 includes replacing four timber bridges between Carrie Blake Community Park and the Reuse Demonstration Site across Bell Creek. It’s estimated to cost about $350,000 for the project. (Matthew Nash/Olympic Peninsula News Group)

Sequim approves city budget with bridge, street work

Utility rates continue 3 percent increase plan

SEQUIM — Several bridges, roadways and utilities are earmarked for upgrades — along with an increase in utility rates — in the City of Sequim’s 2024 budget.

City council members unanimously approved Sequim’s approximate $47.1 million operating budget on Nov. 27, with council member Kathy Downer excused from the meeting.

Residents can expect another 3 percent increase to sewer and water rates in 2024, continuing a 2022 budget decision to increase rates annually at that rate through 2025 to help cover projects, reserves and increasing expenses.

Council members opted not to raise utility rates and property taxes in 2020 and 2021 to minimize impact on residents during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff recommended increases, but without them, debt reserves and capital projects were not funded, they said.

City Manager Matt Huish noted in his 2024 budget message that the average total utility bill for water/sewer in a single-family residence using 500 cubic feet of water a month has gone up an average of 1 percent annually for the last nine years, for a total of about $2.83 per month.

“Many families, specifically those using 1,000 cubic feet or more, have seen their monthly bills decrease, primarily due to the removal of the higher two-tiered sewer rate,” he wrote.

“Therefore, the administration has diligently complied with budget policy to ‘minimize the impact of any tax and fee increases on residents.’”

Sequim continues to offer a low-income discount program for reduced utility bills for those who qualify. To learn more, go to ​​sequimwa.gov/440/Low-Income-Utility-Discount.

Council members approved a 1 percent increase in property taxes at their Nov. 13 meeting in a 4-2 vote, with Mayor Tom Ferrell and Deputy Mayor Brandon Janisse opposed and council member William Armacost excused.

Council members briefly discussed and acknowledged the financial impact of increases.

Downer highlighted the increases in general expenses for residents.

“I don’t know how people do it,” she said.

City staff indicated that even with the 1 percent increase, some residents’ property taxes could go down depending on their assessments.

Sue Hagener, the city’s director of administrative services, said the property tax is an important part of the city’s varied tax base that supports public safety, parks, streets and more.

Project plans

Across the city, staff have planned a variety of capital projects totaling about $12.7 million, with most securing funds or using city funds.

The most sizable project slated for construction is the Silberhorn Deep Well at $3.8 million. The project looks to increase water supply and meet forecasted water demands in 20 years, according to the city’s budget book.

It’ll be funded through a 20-year loan at 1.39 percent via the state’s Public Works Board with annual payments expended at about $275,000 using water revenues, staff report.

About $1.9 million from water and sewer funds is set for West Sequim Bay to expand water and sewer services and increase capacity for anticipated residential developments, John Wayne Marina and PNNL-Sequim.

An additional $1 million is budgeted to relocate sewer piping to underneath the Johnson Creek trestle bridge and repair the structure before the state Department of Transportation begins work to improve fish passage in the area.

Another project estimated at $400,000 will install a parking lot next to the Sequim Civic Center to add more parking and electric vehicle charging stations.

City staff have budgeted $350,000 to replace four aging pedestrian bridges between Carrie Blake Community Park and the Reuse Demonstration Site across Bell Creek. Staff plan to make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and wide enough for mowers to go across.

Several other projects are scheduled, including annual pavement rehabilitation estimated at $618,000.

Council members agreed to a resolution solidifying their legislative priorities at their Nov. 13 meeting that seeks state funds for capital projects, such as $1.5 million toward site work construction for upgrading and expanding the city’s shop at 169 W. Hemlock St.

They also seek $10 million for the West Sequim Bay Corridor Infrastructure Project to serve utility installation for development and the expansion of PNNL-Sequim.

Health, human services

At their Nov. 14 meeting, city council members voted 5-1 — with Downer opposed — to increasing the Sequim Health and Housing Collaborative’s contract from $110,000 to $133,100 following a new request from the multi-agency effort.

Christy Smith, CEO of United Way of Clallam County, who serves as administrator for the contracts, said the money would go a long way to help “make sure everyone has a safe place to live and eat.”

The contract includes outreach to engage people about services, support people with emergency support services, such as hotel, rental, basic urgent care, chronic health care and wellness programming, and more services.

City staffing

Staff estimated that anticipated wages and benefits will increase about 2 percent, or by about $234,000, to about $11 million in 2024.

Total, staffing will increase by 1.44 full-time net hours to 95.71, including a fleet and asset manager, parks and facilities specialist, assistant clerk, accounting assistant and two temporary positions for accounting and for planned retirement.

Following changes last year, the Sequim Police Department moved to 22 sworn officers and one code enforcement officer to account for predicted personnel openings, an increase in police incidents, and compliance with state mandated training and tactics, according to the city’s budget book.

General fund

General Fund revenue projections are $12.68 million slightly above operational expenditures, staff report, with revenues and expenses projected to increase by 2 percent.

Debt on the Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St., will continue with $700,000 budgeted to pay toward its bond.

For more about the 2024 budget, visit sequimwa.gov/1105/2024-Adopted-Budget.

________

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 mnash@sequimgazette.com.

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