The following is a summary of my public comment (the only person to make any statement) to the Yelm City Council on November 24th, 2009. Since Mayor Harding keeps public comments to 3 minutes, I could not go into specifics about my remarks, just a summary, which was published today in the NVN:
At the Citys Tax Increase & Budget Public Hearing last year, I suggested the General Fund Revenue forecast be reduced by 25% from the proposed 15% drop, due to the housing slump, decreasing assessed home values, and on-going water rights issues.
The Council voted unanimously to raise property taxes by the legal limit of 1% & totally ignored my comments. Since the 25% revenue reduction did not occur, the city was forced Sept. 30th to cut 6 jobs and leave a police position vacant. 2010 looks equally challenging.
[In addition to the job cuts at City Hall, the city also increased B & O and utility taxes on our local merchants in 2009. You can do the math:
1. 69% water rate increase
2. 1% tax property increases in 2008 & 2009
3. B & O tax increase
4. Utility tax increase
Think there won’t be more tax increases & service cuts in 2010?
Think again! Stay tuned. Yikes!]
Impacting revenue in 2010:
A. Yelms Finance Manager announced NO new revenue sources are known!
B. Saars Marketplace closure means lost tax revenue; due to economic conditions, unknown how long that space will be vacant.
C. Lost tax revenue from Thurston Highlands default.
D. County figures show Yelms 2nd quarter taxable retail sales fell 12.27%, the countys 2nd worst & greater than Thurstons average drop of 9.06%.
E. State revenue is $2.6 billion LESS than forecast, meaning more cuts across the board to balance the budget.
Yelms expense challenges:
A. Thurston Highlands, LLC default left unpaid taxes/fees totaling hundreds of thousands lost.
B. An unapproved Draft Water System Plan.
C. Perhaps not enough water to continue approving building permits & potential lawsuits arising from lack of adequate water.
D. Thurston County Superior Court water ruling appeals legal costs.
E. Major legal bills ($200,000 to date) on the eminent domain decision of Council to acquire the McMonigle Water Rights.
F. A city population weary of increased water rates.
So, the Council unanimously voted in another 1% tax increase last week with more fees, taxes and cuts anticipated as the recovery outlook continues to be bleak. And really, is this the time for the state & city to be spending $400,000 for flush toilets & concession stand at Longmire Park? As the ONLY commentator at the Budget, Tax & Revenue Hearings in 2008 & 2009, obviously city residents do not care or are satisfied with the budget decisions, as 2 years in a row not one other citizen has shown up to state otherwise.
[About the tax increase, City Administrator Shelly Badger said so cavalierly in today’s NVN,
“That increase is normal operating procedure and described as a ‘housekeeping issue.'”
Ed. Note: that’s right and when the city keeps adding a 1% tax increase, after 5 years, that’s a hefty 5% tax increase! WE’RE AT A 2% TAX INCREASE IN A YEAR NOW & COUNTING – JUST A HOUSEKEEPING ISSUE!
Remember, $100,000 in unforeseen legal bills equates to 2 city jobs as an example.]
AND THE COUNTY’S BUDGET HEARING IS NEXT WEEK:
Thurston County Commissioners will hold a public hearing on the 2010 budget Monday, December 7, 2009 at 5:30pm, Room 152, Building One, Thurston County Courthouse.
The County’s budget has been reduced by almost 17% from 2009.
From the NVN,
“County manager Don Krupp says earlier rounds of cuts have meant no wholesale reductions were needed for the 2010 budget. ‘County Commissioners have been trimming back the budget for years now to account for the limit of 1% per year on property tax increases, which does not allow us to keep up with inflation and an increasing population. We have cut more than 12% of county employee positions and $7- Million from the countys General Fund.’
Krupp says the recession, which hit the county hard, has flattened out a bit, but he still has words of caution. ‘That does not mean that county government has recovered in any significant way. We are still dealing with a terrible revenue situation and an increasing demand for programs and services. Even if the economy fully recovers, county government will still be in a revenue bind for the foreseeable future.’”
Ed. Note: That sounds familiar to my comments to Yelm’s Mayor & City Council last week!
Yelm operates with a biennial budget, which had a 15% General Fund revenue reduction for 2009-2010. Yelm has even more challenges than the county, with an even lower percentage of revenue & proportionately higher expenses; which was my point.
County residents are invited to send in comments the following ways:
Board of County Commissioners
Thurston County Courthouse
2000 Lakeridge Drive, SW
Olympia, WA 98502
By fax: (360) 754-4104
By e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Checkout the County Budget online: