City of Issaquah begins deliberations on 2019 budget

The Issaquah City Council has begun deliberations on the 2019 budget.

Work on the upcoming budget has begun in the city of Issaquah after Mayor Mary Lou Pauly presented a preliminary budget to the city council at on Oct. 15.

During her presentation, Pauly focused on the items in the 2019 budget with material differences compared to 2018, including changes in personnel, significant work plan items and capital projects.

The preliminary proposed budget has expected total revenues at $134.91 million and expenditures at $144.55 million. The budget is meant to closely replicate the 2018 budget without too much change as the city prepares for the completion of its first strategic community plan in 2019.

With the development of a strategic plan, the city hopes to map out the priorities of citizens, like growth and traffic. The plan then will connect with work in the 2020 budget and the capital improvement plan.

Funding for staff is limited this year, Pauly said, as ongoing revenue streams have not been increasing as quickly as expenses. Staffing will remain relatively flat in 2019 and will only increase by five positions to keep expenditures in check. The city will wait until the 2020 budget to look at increasing employment to work on capital projects.

The budget also contains funding for maintenance and improvements for city facilities. The minor improvements in the proposed budget, Pauly said, include investment in the two city halls, more efficient placement of staff and improved security. The mayor noted that the city will be having more discussion in 2019 regarding a long-term facility plan, which will require council direction before development of the next capital improvement plan (CIP).

Staff also highlighted several significant items in the 2019 work plan. Some of the projects the city will work on are a transportation mobility master plan, an update of the Olde Town land use codes, finalization of the strategic plan and its implementation framework, a utility rate study, and urban forest and Green Issaquah planning.

Pauly also touched on the city’s current interim operation of the senior center. She proposed the city move out of interim operations and direct staff to install a long-term, city-run operational plan for the center. The proposal is based on comments received from citizens who use the senior center.

The mayor also noted that 2018 will end with an unaudited, under-expenditure of $4.4 million that will be returned to the fund balance for use for one-time expenses or carryover funding for projects not completed in 2018. Her suggestion to the council was to use restraint regarding the one-time funding to save as much as possible until the 2019 budget process. That money could be implemented more effectively in 2019 to achieve goals established in the upcoming strategic plan and CIP, she said.

The preliminary budget presentation kicked off what will be several council meetings dedicated to examining and making changes to the budget. The city council met on Oct. 22 and 29 to discuss and deliberate the budget presented. Four more budget meetings have been scheduled for Nov. 5, 7 and 13, and Dec. 3. The council is planning a public hearing on the final budget at the Dec. 3 meeting, and it is anticipating adoption of the budget that night as well.

The preliminary budget, as well as summary documents and the mayor’s presentation are available on the city of Issaquah website at issaquahwa.gov/2019budget.

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