Northwest NEWS

November 2, 1998

Front Page

Proposed budget adds staff, holds line on property taxes

   by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--Woodinville would spend $9.6 million in 1999 under the city manager's recommended budget, focusing a good chunk of that on streets, as well as hiring eight more employees and setting $1.2 million aside for a future city hall/civic center, all the while holding the property tax rate at the same level as in recent years.
   Jim Katica, Woodinville's interim city manager, calls the proposed budget "fiscally sound," saying it will improve the services city departments provide and begin preliminary engineering work on a number of street projects the city will work on early next century.
   Expenditures, roughly $2 million above the 1998 budget, would come largely from sales and property tax revenues. The city anticipates collecting $5.8 million in sales tax‹50 percent of that from retail sales‹and $1.8 million from property taxes.
   Katica is recommending that property taxes remain at $1.60 per $1,000 of assessed value, the same rate it has assessed since 1994.
   He said the City Council could bump the rate up, thereby collecting $400,000 more in 1999 which could be used to address part of the $34.2 million in identified, yet incompletely funded, capital improvement projects.
   But Katica, who juggles duties between two offices at City Hall, has split feelings on property taxes. As finance director, he said he would always recommend to raise them, using the additional funds for unfunded projects, then leveraging councilmanic bonds for more projects. Yet, as the city manager, he says it is the City Council's decision politically to hold the rate where it is or change it. As it stands, the city will depend heavily on sales tax.
   "Woodinville is blessed with strong retail activity," Katica notes. Through August of this year, the city has collected an average of $230 per capita in sales tax, the fourth highest amount in King County.
   "What that allows us to do is provide higher levels of service for the money and keep property taxes low," Katica said. But he added that the city expected a downturn in sales tax towards the end of 1999 as construction activity cools. Overall, the city expects to collect about $8 million in taxes, the balance coming from admissions, gas and utility taxes.
   If there's any department that would consume a "lion's share" of operating costs, it's police. Law enforcement would snare 21 percent, or $1.377 million.
   Chief Ken Wardstrom said if Woodinville were to run its own department instead of contracting with King County, police would account for 35 percent of the budget.
   As it stands, police hope to increase bike patrols, buy portable breathalyzers, continue a citizens' academy and add a radar unit.
   Streets follow police with 18 percent, or $1.26 million. The city would work on a transportation plan, provide a signal interconnect system and repair or replace the downtown planter boxes.
   Over $900,000 of the Arterial Street fund would be spent for engineers to look at four big street projects (148th Ave. N.E.-SR 202, SR 202-522 interchange improvements, SR 202 and 127th, and 124th Ave. N.E.) next year, while only $250,000 would be spent on construction.
   There may be a change in who provides the city's legal services. With a projected $70,000 jump in city attorney's costs, Katica says Woodinville is wondering if there's a better way to provide those services, such as having an attorney at City Hall three days a week. He said the city may seek requests for proposals next year. In 1999, $250,000 will be spent on legal services.
   Also under the proposed budget:    The city would have a final balance of $177,000 at the end of 1999 under the proposed budget.
   The yearly budget process begins in July. The city hopes to adopt the budget by Dec. 14. Public hearings on the budget will be held Nov. 9 and 23 at 8 p.m. in City Council chambers, 13203 N.E. 175th St.