Sequim approves $37.9 million budget for 2019 with small utility increase set

Sequim city residents can anticipate a nominal increase in utility bills starting next year following the Sequim City Council’s approval of next year’s $37.9 million budget.

Sue Hagener, Sequim director of administrative services, said most households will see about a $0.50 increase each month with a 6 percent water utility rate increase and 2 percent sewer rate decrease.

After months of discussions, city councilors approved the 2019 budget unanimously on Nov. 26 and voted 5-1 for next year’s rates and fees — with Brandon Janisse opposed and Ted Miller excused.

The changes continue to follow a 2013 utility rates study that proposes a 4 percent increase in both water and sewer annually unless costs are met through various factors such as population growth.

Hagener told city councilors that sewer rates are being reduced because of the growing number of homes connecting to sewer, whereas water isn’t seeing the same amount of growth.

She said city staff plan to contract for another utility rate study in 2020.

A low-income discount remains available for individuals at the Sequim Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St.

Along with the utility changes, city councilors approved a 1 percent property tax levy increase on households allowed by law, equalling about $13,000-$14,000 more each year for the city.

Citizens 61 years and older and disabled residents making $35,000 or less per year are eligible for exemptions for the tax increase.

One point of minor contention in recent budget discussions came up about raising rental rates for the Guy Cole Event Center in Carrie Blake Community Park. Mayor Dennis Smith said on Nov. 13 he was opposed to raising the rent.

“I do not believe it’s in the best interest of the city to increase the rental rates for Guy Cole when we’re trying to get it (up and running),” Smith said.

City Councilors voted 3-2 with Smith and Janisse against approving the rates and fees, which led to a vote with more councilors present on Nov. 26.

While renting remained the same rates, the damage deposit did go up to $200.

2019 costs

City staff anticipate next year’s revenue at about $10.4 million in the general fund could be up about 4-5 percent from this year. City councilors approved various one-time positions/projects such as a part-time art coordinator, a lobbyist for efforts on US Highway 101 improvements (up to $36,000), establishing a budget for a hearing examiner ($25,000), and increased code compliance activities.

As discussed for a few years, construction is expected to begin in earl 2019 on Fir Street by Sequim School District with about $2.4 budgeted by the city from various sources.

The project will take about 18 months, and city councilors unanimously approved purchasing the necessary right-of-way for the project.

Fir Street and several other 2019 capital projects amount to about $6.3 million.

A few capital projects include:

• $33,000 to install a mechanical filtering odor device at the Water Reclamation Facility

• $50,000 to conduct a parks Impact Fee Study

• $100,000 to complete breakout rooms in the Guy Cole Event Center

• $150,000 to coordinate traffic lights on Washington Street

• $219,000 (from grants) for upgrading the stormwater drainage at the southwest corner of Seventh Avenue and Washington Street

• $88,000 to redirect and treat storm drains before reentering Bell Creek on North Brown Road.

• $561,000 for pavement rehabilitation (Transportation Benefit District funds).

• $836,000 for a new Doe Run lift station bringing sewage of Bell Hill to Fox Hollow Road.

The city will also pay off $3.6 million in sewer debt for the water pollution control at the Water Reclamation Facility, which saves the city about $476,000 in interest fees.

Next year, city staff adds the equivalent of 4.77 full-time employees by hiring another police officer, an administrative assistant for Public Works and Department of Community Development, an associate engineer, a maintenance project worker and a seasonal public works at the Water Reclamation Facility.

The city has begun recruiting for a part-time arts coordinator to support for the City Arts Advisory Commission.

With the changes, salaries and benefits are anticipated to go up from $8.2 million-$9 million in 2019.

City staff continue health and human service contracts at $75,000 while allocating $30,000 formerly used to support the YMCA of Sequim for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Olympic Peninsula and Shipley Center with amounts to be determined. Staff plan to solicit human service agencies soon for possible contracts.

For more on the city’s budget, visit or call 360-683-4139.

Reach Matthew Nash at