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City passes budget amendment

  by Andrew Walgamott

WOODINVILLE—Last week, the City Council finalized a mid-year budget amendment that sets aside $1.75 million from various city coffers for use towards buying or constructing a city hall and community center.

Money from the newly created Civic Center Reserve Fund gives the city the flexibility to purchase the downtown C.O. Sorenson complex from the Northshore School District, or build elsewhere, according to Finance Director Jim Katica. Councilmember Art Saulness says the move shows the school district it has the financial ability to purchase Sorenson.

The district is offering the 10.5 acre property for $6 million. If the city doesn’t go for Sorenson, the money could be used to build a city hall from the ground up on three acres Woodinville bought from Brittany Park for $1.65 million last fall. Katica said he recommended the $1.75 million not revert to the general fund if no purchase is made this year because of the city’s need for a civic center. The city has a purchase option on Sorenson good until Dec. 31, 1997, and a lease there until Aug. 31, 1999.

City Manager Roy Rainey said staff will soon begin developing a strategy to acquire Sorenson and take their results back to the council, which has final say in the matter. He said the public would have opportunities for input as the process went forward.

Revising the amendment

Over the past month, city staff have revised their recommendation on where the $1.75 million would originate. In late July, Katica had proposed taking $300,000 from the general fund, transferring $100,000 from debt service and $200,000 from street reserve, and pulling $250,000 from the arterial street fund and $900,000 from real estate excise taxes (REET), lumping the funds together for the Sorenson purchase.

The modified budget amendment passed by council last week includes changes to the amount drawn from debt service and REET, and depends on $292,000 coming in from building permitting revenue forecast for the rest of the year.

If permit fees don’t come in, funds will be drawn from REET instead, Katica said. The $200,000 transfer from Street Reserve was dropped in the new amendment. Katica said road construction and general improvements wouldn’t be hurt by future payments.

“We anticipate we’ll be able to implement the Capital Improvement Plan with existing and future revenue,” Katica said. He did allow that in the future, funding for capital improvements may have to come from REET and reserve funds as forecasts for General Fund revenues shrink.

Central location valued

Councilmember Saulness said Woodinville had an opportunity with Sorenson that other towns had lost by placing their city halls in industrial areas. “I see the value in the location,” Saulness said, pointing out its proximity to senior housing, Wilmot and Woodin Parks, and accessibility for pedestrians and bikers. He also noted that the city could preserve the ballfields behind the school if it bought the campus.“I’d feel like a protester if a developer came in and started building on the ballfields,” Saulness said. Of the complex he said, “It’s public property and should remain public property.”

The council voted 6-0, approving the budget amendment. Not appropriated was a Woodinville Tourism Partnership request for an additional $27,500 for lure brochures, networking and advertising.