Feb. 19, 2019: The Sammamish city manager is laying the groundwork to the city council to impose the first utility tax of up to 3%, to begin imposing annual 1% property tax increases and to undertake pinpoint traffic improvements—including the controversial removal of the 42nd St. barricade in Timberline.
These proposals are in the packet for tonight’s city council meeting, beginning at PDF page 65.
City Manager Larry Patterson writes that the police department, housed in the front end of city hall, is overcrowded. With the need for up to six more police officers, the overcrowding will get worse.
He proposed the council consider development of a “police facility.”
“A longer term plan that assists city hall [which also is facing overcrowding] the sheriff’s office [which provides Sammamish’s police officers] and our own police operating…would be developing the Boys and Girls Club building as our police building,” Patterson writes.
“It provides many benefits such as parking. Initially, we could probably provide space for the Boys and Girls Club…. Longer term, we will need to provide another solution for the…Club.”
Police staffing is before the Public Safety Committee, but Paterson recommends a new police command structure that adds the rank of major above the captain’s position; and six new police officers, providing four officers per shift.
“We do not have enough backup for police and citizen safety and in times of emergency we are quickly overwhelmed,” he writes.
This, plus a police clerk, comes with a $2.1m price tax. He proposes a 2%-3% utility tax on all but sewer and water (ie, electric, telephones, cell phones, etc.).
While the city council may do this without public input, Patterson recommends seeking public comment before adopting a tax.
The city never has had a utility tax.
It will take 18 months to hire and train police officers and in the meantime, Patterson suggests using the revenue for improvements to the fire stations.
Property tax hikes
Patterson writes that there are “two major revenue streams that are not developed.” These are the utility tax, described above, and the annual 1% property tax hike cities are permitted to take under state law. Sammamish hasn’t taken this tax for at least eight consecutive years. These taxes have been “banked” for future potential imposition.
“Council at some point needs to look at a multi-year approach to recapturing its banked property tax,” he writes. “To keep from losing more funding, the city starting next biennium needs to start levying its 1% annual rate and in subsequent years have a multi-year 2% increase until caught up.”
While the city grapples with about $200m worth of unfunded road improvements, Patterson identified a number of quick improvements that could be made.
These are, in order of Patterson’s priorities:
- Remove 42nd barrier
- Build strategic bus pullouts along 228th
- Build a turn pocket at 37th
- Build strategic extensions to 227th
- Improve the 228th corridor
- Add median barrier from 12th to 42nd
- Build climbing lane on Sahalee Way
Of these, the 42nd street barricade is bound to be incendiary. Patterson, who has not been with the city for a year, probably is not aware of the firestorms each time removal of this barricade has been proposed in the past.
This barricade prevents drivers from cutting through Timberline and the “thumb” in the far northwest part of the city between Sahalee Way and SR 202. Safety issues at the barricade are a concern of opponents to removal and increased traffic through all the area neighborhoods comes in a close second.
All previous proposals to remove the 42nd St. barricade have been rejected by the council over these issues.
Easing development constraints
The above suggestions are possibilities to ease concurrency restrictions associated with Sahalee Way, enabling the Town Center and some small development to proceed.
“If after modeling these and we cannot provide for any developments, then the council will be faced with a decision about larger projects, whether to modify the model or stay the course,” he writes.
Patterson also calls for “strategic removal of additional barricades throughout the city” without naming them in the memo to council.
He calls for improving transit to and within the city, funding for which would require voter approval.
Other ideas are listed on PDF page 67 of his memo to council.
No action tonight
No action for adoption is scheduled for any of these recommendations at the meeting tonight.