Also, light rail code amendments considered
The City Council Monday got its first look at a preliminary "status quo" 2013-2014 budget, which includes just incremental growth. The economy's slow recovery means no cuts in services are in the draft budget, a marked contrast from 2011 and early this year, when Bellevue’s budget was "reset" and shrank by $24 million.
The general fund, which covers core services such as police, fire, transportation and parks, is budgeted to grow 4.4 percent in 2013 and 3.2 percent in 2014. The council will begin discussing the preliminary 2013-2014 operating and 2013-2019 capital budgets next week, and will likely continue that discussion until they adopt the budgets in December.
Public outreach continues, with the third and last public hearing concerning the budget set for Nov. 19. At Mayor Conrad Lee's request, people invited by the council will participate in a focus group in November (date to be determined) concerning the budget.
Highlights from the preliminary budget include:
- No general tax increases or layoffs proposed;
- New programs related to economic growth and competitiveness;
- Advances for many of the city's most important capital needs, including Parks Levy projects, the Mobility and Infrastructure Initiative and East Link commitments; and
- Proposed utility rate increases necessary to fund regional wholesale cost increases and improvements needed to maintain service levels and system integrity; as well as proposed Development Services rate increases to ensure fees match the cost of providing services.
The preliminary Capital Investment Program (CIP) budget includes $6.2 million reserved for emerging, high-priority capital needs for economic development and neighborhoods.
Overall, the draft capital and operating budgets, totaling $1.29 billion for 2013 and 2014, provide a plan to continue quality services that residents rely on. In response to a budget survey earlier this year, four out of five (81 percent) Bellevue residents said they feel they are getting their money's worth.
The preliminary budget and related documents are available on Bellevue's budget page.
Feedback: Toni Rezab, Assistant Finance Director, 425-452-7863 or TRezab@bellevuewa.gov
Also, light rail code amendments considered
Councilmembers on Monday engaged in the first of several planned discussions about a draft land use code amendment that would govern permitting for the East Link light rail project.
The interchange led to numerous questions and requests for information that will drive future discussions as councilmembers work to find the right approach for the city.
The code changes are intended to fill in gaps in the current land use code, which did not anticipate a light rail line. With an "overlay district" passing through several land-use districts, the amendment also is intended to provide standards and guidelines tailored to the unique characteristics of light rail and to ensure that the same level of review and outreach occurs along the entire route.
In addition, the amendment would create two possible permitting paths to approve the light rail alignment. One involves a development agreement with Sound Transit, which would allow Bellevue to establish additional design standards and mitigation measures. The second permitting path involves issuing a conditional use permit.
In a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed late last year with Sound Transit, Bellevue agreed to consider a more predictable, consolidated permitting process.
Bellevue staff said the draft amendments: are not intended as a rezone of property; do not amend codes related to noise or construction; and are not a specific approval of the East Link project. Rather, they establish standards that Sound Transit must meet in order to receive permits.
Councilmembers raised questions related to the timeline for making a final decision on the code amendments, the best way to inform the public about a complicated issue, what type of mitigation Sound Transit should provide, and what it means that light rail is considered an "essential public facility."
The land use code amendments and permitting effort are proceeding now in order to establish clear standards and clarify the permit process, before the selection of a final light rail alignment in spring of 2013. Construction of East Link is projected to start in 2015 and light rail service is expected to begin in 2023.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the draft code amendments at a public hearing before the city council on Oct. 22, and at one or more council study sessions in November.
The suggested timeline for council to give final approval to the land use code changes is the end of December, in accord with the MOU hammered out late last year. Written comments will be accepted any time before the council votes on the proposed amendment.
To make comments, or for more information, including a copy of the draft overlay code amendment, a frequently asked questions sheet, and other background material, check the city's Overlay District page.
Feedback: Carol Helland, Land Use Division Director, 425-452-2724 or firstname.lastname@example.org; or Mary Kate Berens, Deputy City Attorney, 425-452-4616 or email@example.com
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