To the citizens of Enumclaw and Enumclaw City Council
Time passes so quickly and here we are once again in the annual city budget process.
As mayor, I present to you my eighth and final preliminary budget offering you a detailed snapshot into the financial resources available to fund your city government organization.
As elected officials, throughout the year we receive thoughts and ideas from the public on topics that are important to them. We do our best, however, it is through this annual budget process that we come to the middle of the table, carefully considering all information, deliberating as a government body to mutually decide how to benefit the majority of our community.
Just prior to taking office as Mayor in 2010, 15 positions had been eliminated and the city began to spiral into the recession. But, standing up for the legacy of this community, which is summed up in one word: resilient, my team went into action. Pencils to paper, listening to one another and making decisions that aided in keeping Enumclaw financially solvent.
Why, do I remind ourselves from the recessionary ashes we rose up and above from? Because, success required and will always require change.
The model of city government has changed over my 8 years as your Mayor. These new management models offered improved financial stability.
- Annexation of the City Fire Department into Fire District #28
- Annexation of the City Library into the King County Library System (KCLS)
- Leasing the golf course to a private operator and ceasing City operations
- Leasing the Expo Center to a non-profit corporation and ceasing City operations
Now, I know there are those who say ”we don’t want change, we like it the way it is (or was).” I understand the qualities of yesteryear you want to hold onto but I also am very cognoscente of the services you desire of your city. Some of those service levels demands are:
- Next generation of better parks for children
- More police officers for an increasing population
- Families and seniors request upgrades to municipal pool
- Contractors desire faster permitting process
- Public demands of better streets
- Landscaping and hardscaping upgrades in our downtown business district
- Outside organizations seeking more municipal dollars to help achieve their Human Service goals
- And the list goes on ……
To try and meet these requests requires constant change and strong financial fortitude to uphold policies.
But our efforts have not and cannot stop.
The advancements in technologies have changed how the world interacts and how we all do business. We cannot meet the demands of our community if our government organization does not have resources in place to meet a growing population and ever-changing technology.
There is only one word that will fit a model that cannot meet standards….that word is STRUGGLE…..
We have had our fair share of struggles. It’s time to embrace the future, capitalizing on economic momentum. Growth is happening right before our eyes. Recently:
- New homes are being built offering new families the opportunity to fulfill their American dream
- New businesses in town. Empty store fronts are fading.
- The condition of our streets is being addressed through revenue received by the Transportation Benefit District charges. Thirty five street and ADA projects alone were completed this summer.
- Expo Center continues to build on standing events and find new clients
- Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce continuing to create events for downtown attracting shoppers to our retail core
- Our restaurants are doing very well
- A new distillery in town
- A new brewery in town
- A proposed winery coming into town
- More visitors to Crystal Mountain and Mt. Rainier
- City has secured the resources to guarantee fresh drinking water for future generations in the form of a 3 million gallon replacement reservoir and new well
- Our utilities are financially stable with the exception of Storm water
So, over the past minutes I have provided you a snapshot of the past and I have touched upon a snapshot of the current day. My preliminary budget is offering recommendations that are a snapshot towards the future. It is a budget that allows the city organization to be competitive yet nimble.
My prioritized recommendations are as follows.
#1 Insure true market-competitive wages
We must have a stable employee framework to carry out all the programs of work required of the city. This means fair, competitive wages for all employee groups. Council must not only recognize but proactively act upon implementing fair, market-competitive wages.
No longer can we continue to operate in this anemic personnel mode expecting City of Enumclaw employees to work for far less with increased duties.
- We must have competitive salaries for all employees. Union represented employees have achieved competitive wage status.
- Non-represented should be allowed to have the status.
- We must have the ability to attract top quality candidates for our community
We are a growing community…….
#2. Reach an agreement to form a Stormwater Utility
No longer can we continue to subsidize the stormwater expenditures out of the general fund and tolerate consequential sacrifices that affect quality of life services.
If council continues down the philosophical path of stormwater being funded by general fund taxes, then an alternative tax funding mechanism must be implemented to meet the remaining general fund demands for services and decrease the structural deficit. This will require an approach of significantly increasing property taxes through utilization of existing levy capacity for 2018. You cannot increase expenditures without increasing revenues.
#3. Continue discussion and action on the Downtown Plaza Concept.
The development of the Downtown Plaza will be a boost to our businesses as well as our community for generations to come. Enumclaw is about community. We gather to assist and we gather to socialize. The Downtown Plaza would offer the synergy that our downtown is lacking.
#4. Combine the Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center into one entity
Therefore independently known as The Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce. Financially outlined through the budget process. This action would alleviate the confusion over who does what, that has existed for so many years. We have a great, energized Chamber and this allows them to wholeheartedly do their job, which they know best.
#5. Re-evaluate the authorization of the new police officer position
This action just prior to budget numbers being released locked up close to $175,000 when combined with the corrections officer that was already being placed into the budget to address the high jail population and its inherent risk. Combined these two positions locks up close to $300,000 of general fund operating revenue.
#6 Assist in future tourism growth
- Continued financial website support
- Financing the placement of a second banner location over SR 410
- Voting in support of the Expo Center using Lodging Tax dollars.
#7. Support my Human Service funding level recommendations
This is always the heartstrings that get pulled and politics interfere. All the organizations in town fulfill a need. They, just as ourselves, are unable to meet all demands and we cannot meet yours. This is where the community needs to step up and financially support those organizations they are passionate about. Organizations need to re-evaluate the level of service you provide and implement realistic funding models. I encourage all these organizations to be resilient yet realize you cannot be everything to all. I thank you for all that you do.
My preliminary budget has tried to address thoughts and wishes but simply put, we still do not have adequate financial resources to meet all the requests without a few difficult decisions to implement new models and please do so by setting politics aside.
This is where it becomes very difficult.
Many people think that if it isn’t funded you don’t care; that simply is as far from the truth. Like most people we have financial limitations just as your household has limitations.
Over my tenure as your mayor I have always placed “Core Services” at the top of my priority list and this year is no different. I spoke of struggle earlier and we have some recommendations identifying financial opportunities to remove STRUGGLE from the list.
In closing, I want to thank all the employees, you are my TEAM; and you have gone the distance and given so much. I could not be more proud.
Thank you to all the volunteers and organizations of our community; you offer so much to our community.
City Council, thank you for listening; thank you for your time.
As I close this chapter of my annual budget process, my heart is and always will be for the best interest of the city.
Best wishes to all.