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December 15, 1997

Local News

Utility tax brought back up, budget not adopted yet

   by Andrew Walgamott
   WOODINVILLE--Though the City Council set property taxes for 1998 last week, a budget for next year has yet to be approved. Passage of Woodinville's $22.2 million budget was held up when Councilman Art Saulness reopened discussion on the proposed utility tax, hoping to include the tax in the regular budgeting process rather than having it as a supplemental item. The tax issue had been tabled until Jan. 12, though Saulness brought it back to the floor.
   Later in the week Saulness said his priority was putting money into streets; when originally brought up, the council had agreed that a tax on electricity, natural gas, telephones and garbage service be set aside for street projects, though it was later suggested that revenues also be used for parks purchases. "If it's not dedicated to roads, I don't support it," Saulness said, though he added he would be willing to look at a compromise if as much as 70 percent went into traffic improvements. He said he was hesitant to bring the issue up again at the Dec. 15 council study session though, and that it would be fair to hear new councilmembers opinions on the matter. "The new City Council may have a different beat on it," Saulness said. His term ends Dec. 31, 1997.
   No decision was reached on implementing a utility tax at the Dec. 8 council meeting, though the council did set property taxes at $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed value, the same rate as last year. Finance Director Jim Katica said the city will collect approximately $1.6 million in property taxes in 1998. Woodinville as a whole is valued at $1.001 billion with $43 million of that from new construction.
   Katica also provided some highlights of the proposed 1998 budget. He said that of the $22 million budget, the city would spend about $12.7 million next year. Among major expenditures were $2.3 million for park construction, $1.2 million on police protection which includes hiring two new officers and providing 24-hour protection, $1.9 million on arterial streets and $1.1 million on surface water management.
   On the council's agenda for this Monday's study session was a second reading of the 1998 budget and a revised employee classification ordinance. Passage of both are required to set next year's budget. If neither pass then, the council will meet again though no meetings are scheduled for the rest of the month.