It’s budget season, as Issaquah battles with a financial forecast that took a toll from the COVID-19 pandemic, and invests in public safety in new ways following the summer’s Issaquah Police Accountability, Equity, and Human Services Action Plan.
Mayor Mary Lou Pauly presented the Issaquah 2021 proposed $122.6 million budget and now the city council is hosting community discussions before final approval. Pauly stated that her priorities in this budget were safe and equitable community, investing in parks and open spaces and transportation improvements.
Unsurprisingly in a time of economic fallout from COVID-19, the city’s budget is down from 2020. The proposed budget is down $20.5 million from 2020, about 14.3%. The forecast also shows a continued decrease in fund balance for the next five years, going below the city’s target fund balance in 2024.
The budget also shows decrease in full time staff in many departments, including a reduction in police department from 73 full time staff to 67, and a reduction in Parks and Community Services Department from 45 to 38 full time staff. Many positions are also moving to different departments, eliminating the support services division, Office of Sustainability, and economic development and moving those roles to other existing departments. The city also shortened utility expenses to avoid a rate increase for Issaquah customers.
The budget shows the city hopes to rely on mostly property tax levy and sales tax for 2021 revenues, and also shortened most funds compared to 2020 in an effort to not raise utility rates for city residents.
In Mayor Pauly’s presentation she also discussed increasing a safety net for the community in times of crises through two new human services positions, and restored funding for civilian positions in the Issaquah Police Department while reducing the overall department staff to the lowest level since 2017.
The city is hosting a virtual community meeting for input on the budget, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. More information on that meeting and the full budget documents are available at issaquahwa.gov