The Edwards Agency

Front Page

Council looks at budgeting, city goals

Legality of REET fund uses addressed

REET fund uses by Jeff Switzer
WOODINVILLE--While acquisition of the Sorenson site and buildings and development of the Wilmot Gateway Park are naturals for the council's top 10 goals, also ranking up there are renaming city streets, beautifying the town's main street, and implementing the tourist district overlay.
   The City Council began laying out their goals for 1997, reflecting on those 1995 and 1996 goals that were accomplished and those that remain. But before the discussions, they reviewed the city's budget to get an idea of what they had to work with.
   According to a presentation by Jim Katica, city clerk/treasurer, Woodinville's property taxes per capita are the same as Bellevue's: $136.
   That figure breaks down further to show that the city's share has gone down and stays below the council-promised $1.60, with 1996 taxpayers shelling out $1.5756 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. Residents paid $1.5922 in 1994 and $1.5987 in 1995.
   So while Woodinville residents pay about $15.86 per $1,000 of assessed valuation total, $9.22 goes to state and local schools, $1.44 goes to the fire district, $2.50 goes to King County, and $1.10 goes to other taxing districts, such as the port, the hospitals, and the library.
   The council's goal for 1996 taxes was to assess approximately $1.60, but because of the budget timing and a missing piece of information, they passed the total amount necessary to balance the budget, which only required residents to pay $1.57 to raise $1.376 million.
   The council has the option of assessing as much as $2.10 at any given time, and can increase that as much as six percent each year.
   "Rating agencies are very interested in your ability as a city to meet with uncertainty and the flexibility to raise money," said Councilmember Lucy DeYoung. "I would dearly love to get an A-1 rating because the agencies have said they won't give a new city an A-1 rating."
   If Woodinville were to earn the A-1 from a rating agency, that would reflect the interest rate at which bonds could be paid back, both councilmanic and general obligation.
   DeYoung said agencies require a cash balance anywhere from five to 10 percent and a history of sound financial management.
   Katica was also asked to set the record straight on how the city may allocate moneys from the Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) fund. The council has considered using up to $1.6 million of those funds for upgrades to Sorenson should the bond issue for a new civic center pass Sept. 17.
   REET money stems from sale of property, and the city is allowed to collect 0.5 percent of the purchase price, Katica said. That 0.5 percent breaks down into two 0.25 percent allocations, each going into separate funds: capital improvement and special capital improvement.
   Of the REET funds, 0.25 percent may be used for planning, acquisition, construction, reconstruction, repair, replacement, rehabilitation, or improvement of sidewalks, street lighting, bridges, parks, recreational facilities, trails, libraries, and administrative facilities, as well as several other categories. The other 0.25 percent is more restricted to infrastructure or parks.
   Should the council decide to use REET dollars to upgrade parts of the Sorenson complex, they would allocate the money from the capital improvement fund, which has less restriction on its use, though they could make a case for using the more restricted funds, for instance on the ballfields as a "park."
   Katica said he doesn't think the council will go that route, as there are sufficient funds available in the capital improvement fund.

Wish lists for the future
   Councilmembers also contributed a list of ideas for future allocations:

   Short-term goals for 1996 which remain to be accomplished include the update of the sign code, working on the bus system, and siting a fire station in the downtown to get a "2" rating for businesses and the city.