Updates on Bothell’s Safe and Secure levy, city finances

Bothell City Council heard progress at its last meeting of 2019.

At its Dec. 17 meeting — its last of 2019 — the Bothell City Council received a budget and levy update for the third quarter of 2019.

Quarterly check-ins are done to check on the progress of city improvements impacted by levies and see if the city budget’s status has evolved since the most recent report.

At the meeting, public safety levy coordinator Carly Joerger discussed new developments in the levy implementation process. Finance director Chris Bothwell presented on current and projected financial standings.

Safe and Secure Bothell updates

In her presentation, Joerger focused on the Safe and Secure Bothell levy program, which the council was last updated on in November. According to Joerger, the city’s levy implementation team meets every two weeks to track progress.

The program levy funds additional public safety staff and services. By the end of the third quarter, several police department hires related to Safe and Secure were completed, including four police officers, one crime analyst (who uses data to identify patterns and trends in local crime) and one police support officer (who takes adults in custody from jail to court).

A building maintenance specialist, who was hired by the public works department and is considered a supportive service hire, was also added.

“With these seven new hires, that brings our total count up to 18 of the 27 levy-funded positions built,” Joerger said.

Two services that were at one time expected to be completed by the end of the third quarter — a property coordinator and a community engagement coordinator — have been deferred to a later date, however.

“There’s a few reasons for these delays,” Joerger said. “The property coordinator has been delayed because of a need to back-fill these selected candidates’ current jobs within the police department. And the communication engagement coordinator has been delayed because of the department’s rigorous background investigation process.”

Currently, the property coordinator position is expected to be occupied by the end of the first quarter of this year. The community engagement coordinator will likely be filled by the end of the second quarter of the year.

In her presentation, Joerger also noted that Bothell fire station replacements as part of the program are also making progress as planned.

Council had no questions for Joerger, who concluded her presentation by noting that her updates were for the most part on track with what had been previously anticipated.

“Both our levy and fire station teams have continued to meet and track our progress against our project plans and making adjustments as we go,” she said.

Financial update

Bothwell began his presentation by discussing how city tax numbers contrast with the second quarter update from a few months ago.

During the second quarter, sales taxes were, according to Bothwell, slacking — about three to five percent below budget. While the number is an improvement from last year, when collections were four percent lower, the city is not meeting the projections that were used during the initial budgeting process.

The telephone utility tax, like in the previous quarter, is continuing to go downward — something, Bothwell said, that can be attributed to the fact that many Bothell residents are moving away from land line use.

General fund expenditures are additionally continuing to be in under-budgeted amounts. Bothwell said that to accommodate this, city departments are working on exercising budget discipline and finding ways to save.

In the first quarter of 2019, the real estate excise tax was promisingly high. By the end of the second quarter, though, it went down — and continued to go down as the third quarter wrapped up.

“It looks like we’re on track to hit budget for real estate excise tax, but the good news that we had in the first qu arter has just not continued,” Bothwell said.

Bothwell had more updates. Ground Emergency Medical Transport (GEMT) revenues, which are new to the city and unbudgeted, are anticipated to start bringing to the city between about $500,000 and $600,000 a year.

According to meeting documents, the receipt of this revenue “is softening the impact of the aforementioned sales tax and utility tax underperformance.”

In the meantime, Bothwell noted that at one point in the third quarter, the city had to refund a taxpayer $300,000, which impacted sales tax collections (but not how trends were viewed), and that cable utility taxes are also sliding.

“It’s not a significant amount yet, but it looks like it could become a trend just primarily based on consumer behavior,” Bothwell said of the cable utility tax issue. “It’s something we’re keeping an eye on.”

Bothwell said toward the end of his presentation that while third-quarter numbers proved not to be exactly what was expected, there were some positives.

“Overall, revenues appear to be cooling off a little bit, but departments are doing a good job of controlling costs,” he said. “So while the results at the end of the third quarter did not demonstrate a positive trend, we are expecting to end [2019] with better-than-budgeted results. We added to the deficit a little bit, but we’re expecting to end the year better than budgeted, so it’s a positive.”

For more details on levy and budget, go to bit.ly/37r9cVp. To watch the presentations, go to bit.ly/2MEa7cY.