City councilors look to wrap up the City of Sequim’s proposed $33.5 million operating budget for 2021 on Monday.
The budget includes proposed major thoroughfare paving projects, a pilot project for body cameras for police, new bridges in Carrie Blake Community Park, among other projects.
The second and final public hearing begins in a virtual meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 23 via www.sequimwa.gov or by calling 253-215-8782, meeting ID 912 3546 4249.
Sequim administrative service director Sue Hagener said the budget is in the black and balanced and doesn’t include any cuts to capital improvements projects because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m tired of telling you guys are doing a great job,” deputy mayor Tom Ferrell joked at the council’s Nov. 9 meeting. “I really appreciate the good work.”
One of the significant moves councilors have already made was opting not to increase water or sewer rates in 2021 due to concerns about the impact of COVID-19 on residents. City staff estimate previously proposed increases would have cost the average residential household another $2.63 a month.
Earlier this month, councilors agreed to a 1 percent property tax levy increase, and new rates and fees for city services, including a 4 percent reduction in general facility charges for new construction. Another change is bringing utility rates to a standard 1.5 multiplier rate for residents outside city limits tapped into city services.
Connie Anderson, the city’s deputy director of administrative services, said Sequim levied about $1.6 million dollars for this year, and by law they can only increase that amount 1 percent from the previous year, at about $16,000 more for 2021, from assessed values.
Ferrell, who called himself a “non tax guy,” said the increase is “very minimal.”
Councilors approved the increase 6-1, with Brandon Janisse voting against.
Rates and fees
Following suggestions from the utility rate study and city staff, councilors also voted 6-1, with Janisse opposed, to updated rates and fees in 2021.
One point of contention for Janisse was the city making utilities for residents outside of city limits pay the same 1.5 multiplier rate, unless negotiated otherwise between city staff and other entities such as Clallam County with the Carlsborg Sewer System.
Janisse favored making utility rates the same for all residents in the Urban Growth Area (UGA) as those in city limits. He felt it wouldn’t require new infrastructure for some residents who live across the street from city limits.
“To me it’s all about equity,” he said. “(Eliminating a 1.5 multiplier) within the UGA is completely reasonable.”
City staff said they proposed reducing the multiplier to make it simpler for administrative purposes. David Garlington, public works director, said there may be few customers in the UGA now, but there are many more undeveloped lots not connected to the system that may require infrastructure such as pump stations that could cost the city a lot to accommodate.
He and other city staffers said making the rate the same as city residents for UGA residents doesn’t give them incentive to annex into the city limits.
The 2021 budget brings millions of dollars in projects to focus on city parks, streets, utilities and more. Here are some of the highlights:
• $1.1 million for Washington Street pavement rehabilitation of 15,000 linear feet between River Road and Simdars Road.
• $490,000 to support the US 101 East Corridor Improvements project.
• $251,000 for Sequim Avenue sidewalk infill along the west side of road from Old Olympic Highway to Hendrickson Road.
• $205,000 for South Sequim Complete Streets planning for creating connector street for Economic Opportunity Areas.
• $442,000 to pave the Water Reuse Demonstration Site parking lot and widen access at North Rhodefer Road to allow two-way traffic to enter and exit from the parking area.
• $65,000 to replace four bridges in Carrie Blake Community Park
• $50,000 for Parks impact fee study/ master plan update
• $300,000 citywide broadband expansion
• $250,000 for city shop upgrade/expansion
• $1.1 million to increase capacity at the Water Reclamation Facility for aerobic digestion system.
• $420,000 for system Installation to centralize control and monitor water.
City staff have proposed funds for 86.51 full-time equivalent employees — about 0.5 less FTEs than in 2020. Next year’s additions include a part-time communications and marketing department coordinator position, part-time position for training a replacement at the Water Reclamation Facility, and making an information technology (IT) position full-time because of COVID-19 related demands.
Hagener reported salaries and benefits went up 0.7 percent from 2020, which were offset by growing revenues and staff retirements.
Next year’s Equipment Reserve Budget is proposed for $784,000 — about 93 percent more than 2020.
Among its expenditures are a new street sweeper ($340,000) and police car ($75,000), replacement bullet proof vests for police ($20,000) and a pilot program for police body cameras ($45,000).
Police officials wrote in the city’s budget packet that body cameras have been “on our radar in our strategic plan for many years.”
Funding for economic development continued to split city councilors during budget discussions. Janisse said Nov. 9 he felt the $20,000 earmarked for the Economic Development Corporation should be used elsewhere.
“I applaud what they’ve done during COVID, but what about the last three years?” he said.
Janisse said one of their deliverables is to bring in businesses and during his time on council “we’ve seen nothing.”
Mayor William Armacost said he opposed removing any funds from the EDC.
“We’ve all been put under new challenges with the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “(In) my experience working with the EDC, they’ve been a most viable resource of helping our small businesses in Sequim and Clallam County.”
He added they’ve done a lot of groundwork on projects like expanding broadband.