Sammamish finances are trending toward a 2020-21 “crossover” point when expenses will outpace 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.