Reconstructing Fir Street, doing more for the arts and helping the Water Reclamation Facility smell better are all on tap for the City of Sequim’s budget next year.
Part of the proposed $38.4 million budget in 2019 also includes a 6 percent water utility increase and 2 percent sewer decrease despite the city seeing higher-than-expected revenues — about 17 percent — than budgeted this year.
“This budget is a balancing act between meeting the increasing demands of a growing community and improving service levels within the constraints of our resources,” City Manager Charlie Bush wrote in his budget message.
City staff estimate about $10.4 million in sales tax revenues in 2019 coming in, a 4 percent increase from what was budgeted.
Sue Hagener, Sequim director of administrative services, said with the excess funds city staff could designate them for one-time projects such as $10,000 for code compliance software and $13,000 for public records software, $30,000 for a municipal court cost assessment study and $50,000 for a cost assessment of John Wayne Marina.
During discussions on Oct. 8, city councilor Brandon Janisse suggested looking into costs for a lobbyist for finishing the Simdars interchange on US Highway 101 allowing traffic to enter the highway to the west.
“I think with it being such a big project, it might be prudent to have a lobbyist,” he said.
Bush said in his experience, a lobbyist could cost about $50,000 a year or less for focusing on one issue.
City councilors agreed to city staff to investigate costs.
Following a 2013 utility rates study, city staff’s 2019 proposal for utility changes with a 6 percent increase in water and 2 percent decrease in sewer averages to about $0.50 cents more per month for each user, Hagener said.
Similar to previous years, a low-income discount remains available.
City staff also propose invoking its 1 percent property tax levy increase on households allowed by law.
Previously, Hagener said the increase brings in 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.
Renting the Guy Cole Event Center could be more costly, too.
Staff propose raising the rates across the board, for example to $125 for the hall or kitchen for a city resident (from $90), and to $150 for non city-resident (from $100) and $300 (from $200) for commercial.
Projects and payments
The city’s largest capital projects, reconstructing Fir Street tentatively begins in January and lasts for 18 months. The project was delayed from last summer due to paperwork issues and the 2019 budget includes about $2.4 million in streets, water and sewer funding from various funds, grants and fees.
Crews will rework the road from Sequim Avenue to Fifth Avenue to include new sidewalks, bike lanes, curbs and gutters, stormwater drains and more.
Along with Fir Street, Sequim anticipates about $6.3 million capital projects for 2019.
Some items include:
• $33,000 for a mechanical filtering odor device at the Water Reclamation Facility.
• $50,000 for a parks Impact Fee Study
• $561,000 for pavement rehabilitation
• $150,000 for coordinating traffic lights on Washington Street
Along with bringing on new projects, Hagener said the city looks to pay off an older project at $3.6 million in sewer debt that helped upgrade water pollution control at the Water Reclamation Facility. She said rather than paying it off in January of 2030, the city could use one-time funds to pay it in 2019 and save about $476,000 in interest fees.
With excess funds, city staff also propose putting more towards paying off Sequim Civic Center construction costs.
Staffing and contracts
Following retirements, attrition and consolidation, city staff propose adding the equivalent of 4.77 full-time employees in 2019, including a 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.
They’ve also asked for a part-time arts coordinator, which city councilors agreed to on Oct. 8 for Bush to begin recruiting for now due to a lack of staff support for the City Arts Advisory Commission.
In total, salaries and benefits go up for the city about 9.7 percent from $8.2 million last year to just over $9 million in 2019.
Hagener said some of the new positions, including the associate engineer and maintenance worker will be paid for by various funds, depending on projects they work on.
City staff also propose continuing health and human service contracts at $75,000 while allocating $30,000 formerly used to support the YMCA of Sequim for other contracts as needed.
City councilors tentatively hold budget public hearings on Nov. 12, and Nov. 26 at the Civic Center, 152 W. Cedar St.