Near the midway point of the city's two-year operating budget, councilmembers on Monday reviewed proposed spending reductions and fee increases to balance Bellevue's financial plan.
Like other cities, counties and states, Bellevue is experiencing lower-than-projected revenue from taxes and fees due to the sluggish economy, while expenses continue to increase.
Through strong management action such as reducing contract costs, limiting discretionary spending, implementing a hiring freeze and possible use of reserve funds, the budget will be balanced this year. However, city budget managers project a $6.5 million ongoing budget deficit that must be resolved.
To close this budget gap, officials have recommended a balanced approach that includes both spending reductions and revenue increases. The work is part of the mid-biennium budget update that examines the 2011-2012 general fund (operating) budget passed in December 2010.
No increases in the property tax or utility rates are planned. But two proposals would raise fees to help offset escalating expenses. A new medical services transport fee would add revenue to the city's general fund, while fee increases for permit reviews and inspections would be earmarked for a separate Development Services Fund.
- Emergency medical services fees: With an increasing number of cities and fire departments in King County charging fees to transport "basic life support" patients to hospitals, Bellevue officials are considering whether to do the same. The recommendation is for a transport fee of $600, plus $14 per mile, for patients with less serious ailments. The amount is comparable with fees charged by other cities and private ambulance providers. The fees would not be charged for "advanced life support" patients with critical needs, such as those suffering from heart attacks or serious injuries. In 2010, fire department aid units transported 3,400 patients. The new fees would generate an estimated $1 million in additional revenue annually for the city's general fund.
- Development Services fees: The construction slowdown has hit the city’s Development Services Department particularly hard. In response, 26 positions were eliminated last year to reduce costs by $2.8 million; in 2012, 15 more positions will be cut to save $1.4 million. In addition to staff reductions, the executive team is proposing a roughly 5 percent increase in hourly fees in 2012 for permit reviews and inspections in functions such as land use, transportation, fire and utilities. Increases ranging from 1 to 5 percent, depending on the function, would be added in 2013. Development Services depends primarily on user fees, not the general fund, to pay for its operations, and the fee increases would help pay for core services. If approved, it would be the first fee adjustment since 2009.
The next step in the mid-biennium budget update will be a public hearing beginning at 8 p.m. Monday, Nov. 28, in the council chambers of City Hall. After that, at its meeting on Monday, Dec. 5, the council will vote on several ordinances related to the budget, including: the 2012 property tax amount, the Development Services fees, basic life support transport fees, and the mid-biennieum budget.
For more information see the council agenda materials at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketStudySession11-21-112a.pdf. Video links to past city council meetings are available on the Bellevue TV webpage at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/bellevue_tv.htm
Feedback: Toni Rezab, Budget Manager, 425-452-7863 or email@example.com
Council affirms South Bellevue annexation effort
With residents in all four unincorporated areas of South Bellevue well on their way to submitting petitions for annexation, the council reaffirmed its support for having them join the city.
Despite a state budget proposal to reduce an existing sales tax credit to help cities cover the costs of providing services to 5,500 new residents, councilmembers agreed the city should follow through on its commitment to annex.
In February the council directed staff to engage residents in Eastgate, Hilltop, Horizon View and Tamara Hills in the two-step direct petition process for annexation to the city. Residents, who would pay lower taxes for more services by joining the city, had previously expressed interest in annexation.
All four areas completed the first step toward annexation by September, submitting notice-of-intent petitions signed by property owners representing at least 10 percent of the assessed value in each area. In October, Tamara Hills completed the second step, with property owners representing at least 50 percent (57 percent) signing petitions for annexation. Residents there are already making plans for being part of Bellevue next spring.
At last count, property owners representing 44 percent of Eastgate's assessed value had signed petitions for annexation. Hilltop and Horizon View residents are near the beginning of their 50 percent petition drives.
Feedback: Nicholas Matz, Senior Planner, 425-452-5371 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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