City’s budget deficit cuts and tax increases explained

By Josh Amato 
Guest contributor 

Analysis 

The City of Sammamish budget is in a structural deficit — the amount of money coming into the General Fund (operations) is less than the expenses going out. 

With this year’s  original spending proposal, the biennial budget was in a $16.6m deficit. The deficit could  be fixed by raising taxes, cutting expenses, using Fund Balance (reserves), or a mix of all three. The Council has known this day would come for a long time – as far back as 2016. But it seems no matter who won the last election, nearly every candidate was opposed to increasing revenue. There was no candidate in 2019 willing to say new taxes would be necessary, except one: Mark Baughman in 2017. 

“At the Candidates Forum, the other seven candidates stated their firm opposition to new taxes and then turned around to support bonds to pay for roads,” Sammamish Comment reported at the time. “When it came Baughman’s turn, he was the only candidate to declare that bonds may require a tax hike to pay for them. It’s a truth that needs telling, and Baughman told the truth.”

Baughman was defeated by Jason Ritchie  

So here we are.

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BREAKING NEWS: City denies Town Center STCA Phase 1 application for 348 homes

By Miki Mullor
Editor

The City of Sammamish Friday denied the permit application submitted by STCA LLC, the larget landowner in the Town Center.

The year-long review is a major blow to STCA and development of the central core of the city. The city staff rejected the application for 300 apartments and 48 townhomes over a multitude of issues. The Community Development Department said the application failed to comply with the development code, ignored environmental requirements and key design elements of the Town Center Plan.

The department had communicated with STCA repeatedly to correct deficiencies, extending the review period several times. STCA still failed to meet requirements, the city said in its decision.

A second STCA application, for 44 homes adjacently, also suffers similar deficiencies, however, STCA was granted 60 days to remedy it. 

This is the same project that was the subject of a controversial approval of a concurrency certificate in August 2019

The denial is subject to appeal to the Hearing Examiner. It also won’t prevent STCA from submitting a new redesign of the project in the future but it is not clear whether STCA can reuse its 2019 concurrency certificate. 

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City Council tells the County to assign zero growth target to Sammamish, cites lack of infrastructure

By Miki Mullor
Editor

The majority of the Sammamish City Council voted last Tuesday to tell King County the City cannot take anymore growth. 

The 5-2 vote came after council members highlighted an overall lack of infrastructure, citing traffic, schools overcrowding and stormwater problems. 

King County planning staff presented to the Council the process of assigning growth targets to cities, a process that takes place every 10 years. “The ultimate [growth] target is that that a jurisdiction [city] determines is a good fit for itself. It doesn’t necessarily have to fit within that [proposed county’s] target,” explained the County’s staff. 

Growth targets dictate the minimum number of housing units the city’s zoning of available land must accommodate in its comprehensive plan, which is due by June 2024, according to the County’s staff. 

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Light rail work along SR 520 ramps up

By Miki Mullor
Editor

Construction activities include tree removal, demolition, utility relocation

Travelers along SR 520 near Redmond will see more activity as work intensifies in extending light rail to Redmond, according to Sound Transit. The 3.4-mile Downtown Redmond Link Extension will extend the line from the Microsoft Campus with two stations, serving southeast Redmond at Marymoor Park, and the downtown residential and retail core.

Work, including structure demolition, utility relocation and removal of existing trees, will take place primarily along SR 520. Light rail and station construction will start next year.

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Staff disputes Council Member Treen on stormwater standards but evades explanation; stalls action

By Miki Mullor
Editor

For the second time, staff from the City’s Public Works department promotes official statements that contradict the public record.  

Back in August, the City was forced to issue a rare retraction after a traffic planner in the Public Works department said in an email that was widely published that “there was no manipulation of data to favor any type of development.”  The City claimed the email was taken out of context. 

Kent Treen

Now, another Public Works staffer has publicly disputed Council Member Kent Treen’s bombshell conclusion, in his guest op-ed, that in 2013 the City relaxed a critical stormwater standard in the Town Center to ease development costs and that in 2016 that standard was dismantled altogether.  

Treen’s effort to restore the old standard in a special legislation has been stalled by staff.

The public record shows that staff’s public dispute of Treen is inconsistent with City’s own past positions on the issue.  

For two weeks,The Sammamish Comment attempted to interview staff on the issue to address the inconsistency. Staff, who were very quick to dispute Treen in public, now are unable to find time to answer questions by email on the issue. 

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