Kent City budget: It's not over yet, and more meetings are scheduled

The Kent City Council continues to grapple with the 2010 city budget after a second public hearing about the budget this past week. The Council will have a budget workshop 5 p.m. Dec. 2 at City Hall, and is scheduled to adopt the budget Dec. 8, although that date could change.

The Kent City Council continues to grapple with the 2010 city budget after a second public hearing about the budget this past week.

The Council will have a budget workshop 5 p.m. Dec. 2 at City Hall, and is scheduled to adopt the budget Dec. 8, although that date could change.

“If the budget is not ready for Dec. 8, we may have a special meeting to approve the budget,” Council President Debbie Raplee said in a phone interview Wednesday.

That special meeting could be scheduled for Dec. 15, Raplee said. A budget adoption on Dec. 8 would be part of the regularly scheduled Council meeting.

The Council does not allow public comment at budget workshops. Residents will get a chance to comment about the budget before final adoption on either Dec. 8 or Dec. 15.

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke last month proposed to Council a $157.8 million operating budget, including a general fund budget of $80.3 million and $11.4 million for capital projects. The rest of the budget is dedicated to other funds such as water, sewer and drainage utilities.

The general fund portion of the budget includes a projected $4.6 million revenue shortfall next year and the elimination of 24 jobs. Another 32 jobs are going to be left vacant.

The shortfall comes from $1 million to go to flood preparedness, as well as an increase in insurance liability, and, due to a drop in assessed property valuations, a $1.2 million reduction in King County Fire District 37 revenues the city is projected to get.

The general fund covers basic services including police, courts, fire and emergency services, infrastructure maintenance, economic and community development, parks and internal support services. Most of the costs are to cover wages and benefits of employees.

About 67 percent of the expenditures go to public safety, including police, courts, corrections and fire and emergency services.

The general fund is mostly funded by property, sales and utility taxes.

Bob Nachlinger, city finance director, said the operating budget of $157.8 million is 6.4 percent less than in 2009. The general fund budget of $80.3 million is 7.6 percent less than the original 2009 budget.

However, in order to deal with the annexation of 24,000 Panther Lake residents next July to Kent, city officials could be hiring as many as 40 to 50 employees in 2010 to serve the new area. They would serve in a variety of positions, including law enforcement and planning.

The city expects to bring in about $11.9 million in new revenue each year in Panther Lake from property taxes, sales taxes and other fees to cover the additional costs. The state will pay the city about $5 million per year to help cover the annexation costs. That state money will come from a rebate of part of the sales tax revenue collected by the state in the city.

The Panther Lake annexation will be maintained as separate budget.

As regards the regular city budget, Council members must determine over the next few weeks whether to reinstate certain programs or jobs or possibly make additional cuts to the budget.

About a dozen people testified at the public hearing to restore the Teen Outdoor Adventure Club that has been cut from the 2010 budget. More than 70 soccer club parents and players showed up to ask the Council to provide more soccer fields.

To view the 2010 preliminary budget, go to www.ci.kent.wa.us/financebudget/index.aspx?id=1226.


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