In the coming weeks, Sequim City Councilors will tentatively approve a $32.7 million budget that includes some big projects and rate increases for residents and builders.
One of the most prolific projects in the proposed budget allocates funding for rebuilding and resurfacing West Fir Street from Sequim Avenue to Fifth Avenue.
Other elements propose increasing water rates by 2 percent, increasing the tax levy amount by 1 percent on homeowners, and increasing the general facility charges for new building developments by $500.
City Councilors host two public hearings on the budget at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 13, and 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 27, at the Sequim Transit Center, 152 W. Cedar St. They’ll tentatively approve the budget at the second meeting.
Breaking down the budget, salaries and benefits totaling about $8.2 million, an overall increase of 5.1 percent.
City staff said they anticipate employing 78.18 full-time staff, which is up from 76.56 this year.
Sue Hagener, Sequim director of administrative services, said the increases comes from adding a maintenance worker to oversee the Carlsborg Sewer Project by July 2018 and paid entirely by Clallam County, and the Sequim Police Department adding a full-time records specialist.
Through contract negotiations, most staffers receive a wage increase next year too — non-uniformed bargaining unit (35.5 employees) 1 percent increase; police sergeants (5 total) 1.6 percent; police officers (13) 1.5 percent; non-represented staff (20.56) to be determined after wage study. Last year a majority of staffers received a 1.5 percent increase.
Connie Anderson, deputy director of administrative services, said the city is anticipating retirements in the public works department and is establishing an ongoing crossover plan to cross train new employees with retiring employees to transfer the institutional knowledge.
She said the city plans to transition two seasonal employees into one full-time employee to shadow existing, experienced crew members and fulfill succession planning needs as senior crew members retire in the new future.
Hagener said the IT department has a vacant position that they’ll contract out with a technical organization to monitor the city’s network and “access those types of people out here.”
City utility users may see a 2-percent increase, about an average of 60 cents on their bills for those who use 460 cubic feet of water, next year if the new budget is approved.
It’s the same rate that was approved last year with no changes to sewer rates following a 2013 utility rates study, which proposed an annual increase of 4-percent of both sewer and water rates over six years.
“The key here is (the consultants said) if you want to fund operations and debt and fund some capital projects, you’re going to need to increase revenues by 4-percent every year but that doesn’t mean a 4-percent rate increase,” Hagener said. “You can achieve growth through a growing amount of accounts, structural changes like charging higher users of water higher rates, and/or a simple rate increase.”
She said sewer rates haven’t gone up because structural changes and the amount of new accounts has been significant but there hasn’t been much growth with water rates.
Hagener said they’ve implemented less than 4 percent rates since the study was approved due to the growth of users in the system.
They’ll also designate adult care facilities as multi-family customers in 2018 for sewer because they’ve been charged as a single facility rather than per unit.
“We want a more equitable distribution that balances the charges between use and revenues,” she said.
“If you’re using the system then you need to pay for the system. It was clear to us, they were using a lot but not paying what they should be. The residential customer back then was paying far more than their fair share. We want to implement things to balance that out.”
Along with these structural changes, Hagener plans to maintain the low income discount, but look to increase its effectiveness.
Other rate increases
City staff also asked city councilors to increase the property tax levy by 1 percent for the second year.
How much of an impact that will be to local homeowners is not cut and dry, Anderson said.
The city is legally allowed to increase its property tax total by 1 percent over last year’s levy amount.
If a homeowner with a home assessed at $200,000 saw an average assessed value go up by 7.5 percent then the home is valued at $215,000 and they’d be projected to pay about $323 a year, or about an $11 increase from 2017, Anderson said.
Hagener said the increase brings in about $13,000-$14,000 for the city annually.
Senior citizens 61 and older and disabled residents making $35,000 or less per year are eligible for exemptions.
City staff propose increasing general facility charges by $250 each to water and sewer, too. If approved, water and sewer hook-ups have both gone up by $1,250 since 2014.
Fir Street will tentatively be rebuilt with a budget of about $1.781 million through grant funding and Transportation Benefit District dollars next year. Funding will support rebuilding the roadway with new sidewalks, bike lanes, curb and gutter, illumination, stormwater handling, and irrigation lines will be repaired.
City staff budgeted $372,000 to install a larger water main and $426,000 to replace sewer line along the road to accommodate Sequim School District too.
In total, the city has about $1.8 million in water projects and $1.5 million in sewer projects projected for 2018 and about $6.9 million for all capital projects.
A few other notable capital projects include:
• $72,000 for the Water Reclamation Facility to install a filtering device to control odor.
• $359,000 paving the Water Reuse Parking lot using Real Estate Excise Tax dollars.
• $61,000 towards constructing pickleball courts in Carrie Blake Park.
• A few of the more expensive capital equipment purchases include a $100,000 to replace a wellhead on Port Williams Road, $80,000 to replace the boiler at the Water Reclamation Facility, and $50,000 to purchase two new trucks after trading in older models.
Human services funding is proposed to remain consistent with funding in the past with the agencies like the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula splitting $75,000 a year.
City staff propose continuing to contract services with the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce at about $81,500 a year, and $30,000 a year with the YMCA of Sequim.
Hagener said the agreement to contract for youth services and other programs with the YMCA was agreed upon before the agency took over the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center. The agreement was set for three years and ends next year, she said.
For more on the city’s budget, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 683-4139.