Includes Investments in Public Safety, Streets and Parks
At Tuesday’s Kent City Council meeting, the council adopted the 2017-18 biennial budget. Incorporating recommendations from the Financial Sustainability Task Force, the budget includes funding for nine new police positions, continued street and utility maintenance, and other city services.
The total $581.6 million budget includes a $189.9 million allocation to the General Fund, $76.2 million to Special Revenue Funds, and $63.9 million for capital improvements. The budget does not contain cuts to any citywide programs.
According to Council President Bill Boyce, Kent being a safe community is a top priority. “This council is committed to keeping Kent safe. Our police officers do great job, that’s why our crime rate remains among the lowest in the region. But they’re extremely busy, and we’re glad to be able to provide them additional support,” Boyce said.
The budget funds the addition of five police positions in 2017, including three officers, a records specialist a corrections sergeant, and another four officers in 2018.
The budget also annually invests nearly $10 million in business and occupation (B&O) and utility tax revenues for street maintenance. For the first time ever, the street maintenance project lists were included in the budget deliberations, where prior, they were approved separately at a different time of year.
Other highlights from the budget include:
- Funding to advance the “Meet Me on Meeker” initiative, a plan to rebuild this commercial corridor to better connect with downtown, improve safety for pedestrians, cyclists, and residents, and create a sense of place and distinctive identity.
- A Youth Initiative Program coordinator to focus on teens who face the greatest challenges in reaching their potential.
- A new Rental Housing Inspection Program, including a code compliance officer to inspect rental properties, will ensure a minimum level of quality is met. The position will be funded by fees generated by the new program.
- A communications coordinator to increase the frequency of city communications with residents and businesses.
- An additional attorney to mitigate our prosecutors’ workloads (each handle 650 to 800 cases per year) to assist with criminal and civil cases and public records requests.
- Implementation of full cost-recovery for permits to fund the purchase of new software to facilitate online permit applications.
- Funding for the Kent Historical Society to supplement the salary of a new executive director to manage the museum and its programs.
- Additional funding to support Kent’s Sister Cities Program.
Long awaited investment in parks improvements
The budget directs $2 million in 2017 from its general fund reserves and $2 million in 2018 from its capital resources fund to pay for park improvements rather than raise property taxes.
Boyce said a majority of Kent residents believe Kent’s parks and recreation facilities contribute to their overall quality of life. “That’s why we’re investing in a partnering with the YMCA for a new facility at Morrill Meadows Park, and the Kent Valley Loop Trail.
“While new facilities are great, we must also find a way to take care of what we have. We have a $60 million backlog of long overdue parks capital and major maintenance projects, including renovations at Lake Fenwick Park, West Fenwick Park and Kent Memorial Park,” Boyce said.
The Council excluded Mayor Cooke’s proposal to use some of the city’s “banked property tax capacity” for parks improvements.
Banked property tax is available to use since the city reduced its property tax levy by $1 per $1,000 assessed valuation in 2011 after voters approved the formation of the Kent Fire Department Regional Fire Authority. State law allows a city to raise property taxes above the 1 percent maximum per year if it has banked capacity.
Boyce acknowledged the use of reserves to fund parks was a small investment towards a much bigger challenge, and not a long-term funding solution. “Given the emergency reserves we have today exceed the 10 percent minimum set in our own policy, I’m more comfortable using some of those funds for parks rather than impacting taxpayers with a property tax increase. We’re also keeping our previous commitment to the business community to only use B&O revenues for roads.
“This council is committed to taking care of parks, and making sure there is a long-term, sustainable funding solution. It’s up to us to figure that out.” Boyce said.
More information about the city’s budget is available at KentWA.gov/Budget.