Kenmore council adopts its biennial budget

Kenmore City Council on Dec. 8 formally adopted the city’s first biennial budget, setting in place a $70 million municipal spending plan for 2009-2010.

Kenmore City Council on Dec. 8 formally adopted the city’s first biennial budget, setting in place a $70 million municipal spending plan for 2009-2010.

Proposed by the administration and passed by council with — according to several sources — minimal changes, the budget includes general-fund expenditures of $20.7 million.

The general fund pays for the routine operation of the city, including items such as salaries and public safety.

As they talked about the newly adopted spending plan, several officials, including Mayor David Baker, first stressed the importance of this being Kenmore’s first two-year budget.

According to City Manager Frederick Stouder, Kenmore is following a general trend in passing a biennial budget as opposed to the one-year plans put together locally in the past.

“It just makes sense from a forecasting aspect,” Stouder said recently.

In more general terms, Stouder said he always has proposed conservative budgets throughout his career in municipal government.

“This is a conservative budget, probably even more conservative than most,” he added.

Both Stouder and Assistant City Manager Nancy Ousley have talked about Kenmore being largely a contract city in terms of most of its operations. The city only has roughly 22 full-time employees, contracting out for many of the services it offers, from trash collection to police. With the national economy in a much-talked about free-fall, Stouder said Kenmore will be monitoring its revenues closely, with an eye toward adjusting its service contracts as needed.

For example, he said officials could decide certain work, say a traffic study on a specific street, just will have to wait a while.

Stouder added he expects the national economy to experience a roughly three- to five-year downturn.

“I think we’re prepared for that,” he said.

Ousley praised both the council and Kenmore Finance Director Joanne Gregory for coming up with what she called a “user-friendly” document.

“I think it shows they want this to be transparent and open,” she said.

Stouder said the general-fund budget for the coming year is projected at $12.9 million, about 2 percent more than in 2008. Of those dollars, $10.6 million are directed at services and $2.3 million is expected still to be in Kenmore’s coffers at the end of the year.

The overall budget for 2009 has been set at $42.3 million, compared to $52.8 million in 2008. Stouder said the difference is primarily due to this year’s expenditures for improvements to State Route 522. He later added capital-improvement projects will continue to be significant budget items.

In total, the city’s capital-improvement fund is expected to reach just over $9 million in 2009. In terms of projects, Stouder pointed to the much-discussed construction of a new Kenmore city hall, along with a detailed surface-water plan.

Also talking about capital expenditures, Gregory said the city has placed an emphasis on parks and recreation and mentioned a $1.6 million plan to enhance Log Boom Park by expanding the existing beach, adding landscaping and taking other steps.

Speaking in regard to the revenue side of the budget, Stouder told council the estimated property-tax rate for a Kenmore homeowner should be about $1.26 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. That number is down from the levy rate of $1.33 in 2008. For a homeowner with property valued at $400,000, the difference is a decrease of $28.

Stouder pointed out Kenmore collects only about 12 percent of the property taxes paid by city residents, with the majority of those dollars going to the state and the Northshore School District. Following the recommendation of Stouder and Gregory, City Council did not take the 1-percent hike in property taxes allowed by the state.

According to Stouder, Kenmore has not taken that increase since 2004.