SEQUIM — Through the budget process for 2021, the Sequim City Council has declined to raise utility rates, approved a 1 percent increase on property taxes and maintained a plan to keep capital projects for the $33.5 million budget.
City council members unanimously approved the balanced budget on Nov. 23 after months of discussions and uncertainty with COVID-19.
Here are several impacts:
• Utilities — Because of impacts from the novel coronavirus, the council voted 4-2 in late September not to raise water or sewer rates within city limits, saving the average residential household about $31.56 a year, or about $2.63 a month, from proposed increases.
However, city staff said that, because of ongoing increasing costs for sewer and water projects, they might have to suggest a higher rate increase for 2022.
• Multipliers — Council members agreed on Nov. 23 to bring utility rates to a standard 1.5 multiplier rate for some residents outside city limits tapped into city services.
City engineer Matt Klontz said that changes the rate for about 34 customers currently at a rate of about 1.6 for monthly usage and connection rates.
He said the move improves equity among ratepayers while following the state Growth Management Act in encouraging those residents to annex into the city for lower rates and promoting greater densities in the city rather than county areas.
Public works analyst Sarah VanAusdle said agreements with the S’Klallam Tribe and Clallam County are separate from this multiplier, and bills are analyzed each year based on cost of services and a markup of 25 percent.
Klontz said the new multipliers will be implemented in 2021 for the 34 customers along with Sequim Bay Lodge, which connected through new pipeline from Sequim to Blyn for the tribe’s new resort and other facilities.
• Property taxes — The city levied about $1.6 million dollars for 2020, and by law, city councils can only approve to increase that amount by 1 percent from this year to next — at about $16,000 more for 2021 — from assessed values.
• Projects — Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Capital Improvement Program (CIP) projects remain on schedule for 2021, city staff report. In the Public Works Department’s project list, city staff budgeted nearly $6.4 million across the city.
• Streets — The city has set aside $1.1 million for Washington Street pavement rehabilitation between River Road and Simdars Road, $251,000 for Sequim Avenue west side sidewalk infill from Old Olympic Highway to Hendrickson Road, and $205,000 for South Sequim Complete Streets planning for creating connector street for Economic Opportunity Areas.
City staff also budgeted $190,000 for pavement rehabilitation based on city streets’ condition, and $53,000 for citywide pedestrian/bike improvements.
• Parks — Drivers at the Water Reuse Demonstration Site in the northern part of Carrie Blake Community Park can expect new pavement in the parking lot ($442,000) and a wider access point at North Rhodefer Road for two-way traffic to enter and exit from the parking area by the Albert Haller Playfields.
Next year, $65,000 is budgeted to replace four bridges in the park, and $50,000 for a parks impact fee study/master plan update.
• Water/sewer, broadband — About one-sixth ($1.1 million) of the city’s capital projects budget will increase capacity at the Water Reclamation Facility for aerobic digestion system. Another $420,000 will bring in a centralized control and monitoring system while $200,000 will go to replace failing water mains.
City staff also budgeted $300,000 for citywide broadband expansion efforts through a grant.
• Personnel — Next year’s staffing load declines from this year about half a full-time employee to 86.51.
It accounts for retiring employees and adding a part-time communications/marketing department coordinator, a replacement staff position at the Water Reclamation Facility and making an Information Technology (IT) position full-time.
City salaries and benefits went up about 0.7 percent from this year but were offset by growing revenues and staff retirements.
• Equipment, community partners — With $784,000 marked for the 2021 Equipment Reserve Budget, larger portions of it go to a new street sweeper ($340,000), a new police car ($75,000), replacement bulletproof vests for police ($20,000) and a pilot program for police body cameras ($45,000).
City council members also agreed to continue agreements with community programs/entities such as the Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Information Center ($88,063), and Human Service Contracts ($75,000) with facilities like the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula, and Shipley Center.
For more information about the city’s 2021 budget, visit sequimwa.gov/971/2021-Proposed-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 [email protected].