Earlier this month, Mayor Ava Frisinger released her fiscal plan for next year. In a memo to the Issaquah City Council she stated, “My 2011 proposed budget reflects two key goals: maintain strong fiscal stewardship during these lean economic times, and stay focused on our community’s needs – both today and for the future.”
The mayor’s presentation of her proposed budget is only the first step in a three-month long budget process. From now until the middle of December, the city will hold several meetings and two public hearings, when it will take funding requests from the various city departments and local organizations, as well as hear feedback from citizens on how the anticipated revenue should be allocated.
At the first of these meetings Oct. 5, representatives of the Issaquah Historical Society, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery (FISH), Issaquah Senior Center, Downtown Issaquah Association, AtWork!, Issaquah Chamber of Commerce and Village Theatre presented their funding requests to the city.
With impending budget cuts from the state and King County as a backdrop, these groups need every penny they can get from the city to maintain current services. Thankfully for them, much of the mayor’s proposed budget keeps funding of these community groups at a level comparable to the previous two years, ensuring a modicum of fiscal stability for local nonprofits and human service agencies during an otherwise turbulent time.
That doesn’t mean these aren’t challenging times for service organizations. FISH Executive Director Gestin Suttle said that they had lost all funding for next year from King County, which equates to one-third of their budget.
“We’ll do as much as we can on less,” Suttle said. “It’s a unique program that the community supports and appreciates. We’re hoping to find replacement funds.”
Hopefully, some of that lost money will come from the City of Issaquah’s tourism grant program. Funded through a 1 percent tax on motels, these grants are used to promote tourism and tourism-related facilities. Last year, FISH used some of the money from the tourism grant to redevelop its web site to draw more people to the hatchery and to Issaquah.
AtWork!, which has a local workshop on Juniper Street in Issaquah, helps find employment for developmentally disabled adults, and receives nearly half of its funding from Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services Division of Developmental Disabilities. Chief Executive Officer of AtWork!, Chris Brandt, is anticipating a 12 percent cut from that source this year.
“(These cuts) will be hugely impactful for people with disabilities,” Brandt said.
At the Oct. 5 meeting, Brandt asked the city for $20,000, the same amount AtWork! received in both 2009 and 2010. This money, as well as an additional $8,000 from Human Services, subsidizes the AtWork! Recycling Center in Issaquah and helps employ 16 individuals.
The mayor’s proposed budget currently has that amount allocated to the AtWork! Program, so Brandt is hopeful.
“The city council and the mayor have always been extremely supportive of nonprofits…of having a human service safety net in the community,” she said.
A decision on the financial fate of several other nonprofits in Issaquah will have to wait a little longer. The mayor’s budget currently has $214,000 listed under Undesignated Agency Contributions, which is the amount the Human Services Commission has to allocate to its various organizations. After reviewing available funds, they will make their recommendations to the city council in November.
As for other areas of the budget, last year the city was forced to cut 10 percent of its workforce due to revenue shortfalls. This year, no layoffs are anticipated.
The mayor is also anticipating a balanced budget without tax increases. According to Issaquah’s Public Information Officer Autumn Monahan, the mayor is focused on balancing the budget by limiting expenditures not by increasing tax revenue.