Retreat Preview: Financial crossover point estimated 2020-21; new taxes possible

Sammamish finances are trending toward a 2020-21 “crossover” point when expenses will outpaceCity_of_Sammamish revenues, according to an estimate by the City Staff prepared for the City Council Retreat. (See document page 195 of the City Council briefing packet.)

The Retreat begins at 5pm Thursday and continues through noon Saturday at the Murano Hotel in Tacoma.

This means that based on current data and estimates, Sammamish taxpayers could be looking at new taxes in the form of an increase in property taxes or implementation of a utility or business and occupation (B&O) tax.

The City Council hasn’t increased the property taxes for a number of years. Under state law, a 1% increase is allowed per year.

Sammamish hasn’t imposed a utility or B&O tax at all since incorporation in 1999. A utility tax could raise $7.5m a year, the Staff estimates. An increase in the property tax could raise $1.5m/yr. A B&O tax would raise $400,000 per year.

The City is projected to end this year with a budget surplus of nearly $8m.

Staff reports that Sammamish faces a “long-term structural imbalance.”

A possibility to save money, rather than raise or impose new taxes, would be to lower the Level of Service (LOS), which is the rating of traffic flow at key intersections throughout the City. LOS is entirely a City Council decision, which in the extreme could be LOS F (failure). This means traffic backup at key intersections would have extended waits.

Budget cuts in other areas are also an option.

7 thoughts on “Retreat Preview: Financial crossover point estimated 2020-21; new taxes possible

  1. I think there are a few areas I’d like to see targeted cuts:

    – Large transportation items. I think the old mentality of spending large amounts on these huge projects (E Lake Sammamish Parkway, Sahalee, etc) that don’t do anything for congestion relief is the wrong idea. Why not do cheaper/simpler stuff that could have an impact like, say, extending the left hand turn pocket from 228th southbound onto NE 8th eastbound?

    – Expensive park items. To me, simpler is better with parks, give me a few nice trails, a playground for the little ones, and a picnic area, and I’m happy. Big Rock Park is too much flash and is going to cost us in terms of maintenance in the long term.

    – Stop subsidizing the 269, existing service should be getting paid for by Metro. I’m sorry but Sammamish is already getting the short end of the stick – we pay a huge chunk of sales tax towards both Metro and Sound Transit and yet the city is paying out of pocket for additional service on this route. Existing 269 service should be getting paid for out of Metro’s budget, there is already a huge imbalance in terms of service received and dollars contributed. We need better lobbying efforts from Kathy Lambert or whomever works with Sound Transit. If we are expected to deal with “urban growth” then we should at least get some benefits from it.

    – Sell the Mars Hill property or actually do something with it. The $6MM purchase felt like an impulse buy by Ben. A year later, the property is still sitting vacant. Honestly that’s unacceptable. I’d love to see the building sold to someone that would put an entertainment venue in there – bowling alley, pool hall, etc.

    – Transportation impact fees need to be dedicated to congestion relief. Period. I don’t want these fees paying for upkeep of existing infrastructure, i.e. paying for things like the pavement maintenance program. If we are underfunding maintenance, then yes, we should talk about shifting dollars to this program, or raising taxes. If we can’t pay for existing maintenance out of the general fund, then we either need to cut spending or increase taxes. Don’t rob dollars that are earmarked for congestion relief to do this.

    Although a lot of that is negative, I will say that I like several things the city is doing fiscally:

    – The fact that the city is a contract city – I have to imagine paying consultants is cheaper than paying a FTE staff member full benefits and funding their pension. Our staff is very small relative to its population and it isn’t unionized (which saves the city money). This is good, keep it up.

    – The pullback on the Sahalee Way project in response to citizen feedback. I LOVED this. The current project had huge problems with respect to congestion relief (it just pushes the congestion closer to 202). I’m glad citizen input was considered here.

    • @Citizen I’m not sure about Sammamish subsidizing bus route 269–this is the first time I’ve heard of this possibility, though I certainly could have missed it. Are you sure about this one?

      Impact fees are not for maintenance, but for congestion (new roads, widening, improved intersections). But because there is existing traffic, developers are only required to pay their “fair share” for new roads projects and taxpayers pick up the rest on the logical reasoning that existing drivers benefit, too.

      • To be clear, I have no issue with existing 269 service. I’m just arguing that it seems unfair that city taxpayers have to pay for this out of pocket, apart from Sound Transit’s taxes and King County Metro’s sales tax. We barely get any bus service as-is, and all of it beyond the 269 goes to DT Seattle. It feels like we should get a little more for the taxes that we pay into the system…

  2. Great, the community center is not even finished and we are talking about needing to raise taxes. I remember having this discussion with the City Council and they assured everyone at the meeting that there would be no need to add any new taxes or raise existing taxes.

  3. Pingback: Sammamish finance retreat Thursday to ponder whether new taxes needed | Sammamish Comment

  4. Pingback: City’s budget deficit cuts and tax increases explained | Sammamish Comment

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