The Olympia City Council will hold a public hearing for the 2017 operating budget at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E. Steve Bloom Staff file, 2016
The Olympia City Council will hold a public hearing for the 2017 operating budget at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E. Steve Bloom Staff file, 2016

Local

Despite more money, Olympia’s 2017 budget falls short on ‘critical needs’

October 26, 2016 12:00 PM

City staff has unveiled Olympia’s proposed 2017 operating budget, which includes substantial new revenue from taxpayers, but lacks specific funding for popular downtown services such as the nighttime police walking patrol.

The Olympia City Council will hold a study session at 6 p.m. Nov. 7 at City Hall to discuss details of the city’s preliminary $139 million budget that has limited “wiggle room for new items,” said City Manager Steve Hall.

Among the highlights:

▪ In 2017, the city reports an increase of $7 million in total revenues. The city parks department expects to generate $1.6 million from the new Metropolitan Parks District property tax that Olympia voters approved in November 2015 for park acquisition and maintenance. The parks department will add nine employees with the funding.

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▪ About $101,500 in extra revenue will come from a council-approved 1 percent property tax increase. City residents also will pay more for utilities in 2017, with an average of $3.50 more per month for water and sewer.

▪ The budget anticipates an 8.8 percent increase in revenue — about $482,000 — from business and occupation taxes. An additional $51,636 will come from state shared revenues, which city finance director Jane Kirkemo said consists mostly of money from legal marijuana sales.

▪ The budget comes up short on a number of “unmet critical needs,” most notably police initiatives such as downtown nighttime walking patrols and body-worn cameras. Those programs need about $2.35 million, and the nighttime walking patrol would need to be staffed through overtime. The city is short about $1 million for technological upgrades and needs about $729,000 to replace firefighting equipment. The city also lacks $250,000 to implement the Downtown Strategy, which puts the city’s plans into action.

▪ The city reports that sales tax revenue will increase 5 percent in 2017, though Toyota of Olympia — the city’s largest sales tax generator at more than $1 million a year — is moving to Tumwater in the spring. Total sales tax from vehicles had been growing year after year to a high of about $3.3 million in 2015, according to the budget. “That has pretty much been buoying our economy, at least for the past couple of years,” Kirkemo said of vehicle sales.

▪ One higher expense in 2017 comes from a $3.7 million increase in wages and benefits for city employees. Kirkemo said the cost reflects the mandatory “step increases” for a batch of new employees that have been hired.

▪ The city’s budget is balanced as required by law. This means revenues are equal to expenditures. There will be no city layoffs or cuts in services, according to city staff.

▪ The preliminary budget cites a number of cost savings in 2017, including a $200,000 savings in city vehicle maintenance; $150,000 savings in fuel costs; and about $31,000 in savings on electricity and natural gas consumption. The budget also touts more efficiency in water usage, garbage collection and public works projects.

Public hearing

The Olympia City Council will conduct a public hearing on the budget at 7 p.m. Nov. 15 at City Hall, 601 Fourth Ave. E., and is expected to adopt the final budget at its Dec. 13 meeting. A copy of the city’s proposed operating budget is available online at olympiawa.gov.