The City Council Monday approved new operating and capital budgets focused on maintaining service levels citywide while tackling critical transportation and utility challenges.
"Over the past several months, council members have listened to residents and heard their concerns for what the city's top priorities should be," City Manager Steve Sarkozy said. "These budgets are responsive to those concerns."
Sarkozy said that despite the economic slowdown, the city’s past frugality and fiscal stewardship -- combined with development in recent years that generated new revenues -- worked in the city's favor during budget deliberations.
"These budgets will allow us to keep delivering the quality level of services that our residents have come to expect, and also allow us to move forward in critical areas such as transportation improvements, rebuilding our utilities infrastructure and expanding our environmental stewardship efforts."
Sarkozy added that adoption of the budgets follow council approval last year of a budget amendment designed to meet new public safety needs brought about by the city's rapid growth, particularly in the downtown business district.
At that time, council members unanimously agreed to fund 15 new positions, including eight firefighters, six police officers and a traffic engineer to design and implement a new computerized traffic signal system.
The biennial budgets adopted Monday total $1.1 billion and include a 3 percent property tax increase to help fund critical roadway projects identified as key to improving traffic flow and meeting other transportation challenges. Residents have identified transportation-related issues, including traffic congestion, as their top concern.
Even with the tax increase, property taxes in Bellevue will remain well below those of most other Puget Sound cities. Beginning next year, the owner of a $626,000 house -- the average home value in Bellevue -- will pay $589 to the city in taxes, including the amount of the new Parks levy adopted by voters in November. In Seattle, the same homeowner will pay $1,634.
The transportation projects that will be partially funded by the tax increase are part of what is being called the Bellevue Mobility & Infrastructure Initiative. They include:
- Extending Northeast Fourth Street to 120th Avenue Northeast;
- Realigning and widening 120th Avenue Northeast from Northeast Fourth Street to Northup Way; and
- Constructing a new Northeast 15th Street roadway from 116th Avenue Northeast to 124th Avenue Northeast.
The new budgets also call for investments in the city’s Environmental Stewardship Initiative, a key City Council priority. Among other items, the new budgets include funding to create and implement a communitywide greenhouse gas emissions plan, and to accelerate the rate at which the city is able to restore and improve city-owned trees and forests.
The new budgets:
- Provide funds to hire a full-time employee to staff the Mercer Slough Environmental Education Center. The unique and highly-praised regional educational facility, a partnership between the city and the Pacific Science Center, opened last fall;
- Provide funds to make permanent the innovative Wrap-Around Services program at Lake Hills Elementary School. The program, a partnership among the city, the Bellevue Unified School District and United Way of King County, attempts to maximize public investment in the local school by making it available for a variety educational, recreational and volunteer programs, and by involving residents and families in lifelong learning and family participation activities;
- Provide funding support for the Bellevue Jazz Festival, and increase support for the Bellevue Youth Theater.
Under the new budgets, Bellevue residents will face utility rate increases. The increases are needed to meet a number of critical issues, including increases in wholesale water and wastewater costs, replacing aging water, sewer and storm water systems, capital projects needed to support growth, and increasing state and federal mandates.
The average residential utilities customer will pay about $9.50 more each month in 2009 and $7 more each month in 2010. That means a typical residential utility bill would increase from $100 per month in 2008 to $110 per month in 2009 and $116 per month in 2010.
Return to News Release Index