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Council approves 2013 city budget

Arlington City Council member Dick Butner notes how quickly the Council proceeded in passing the city budget this year. - Kirk Boxleitner
Arlington City Council member Dick Butner notes how quickly the Council proceeded in passing the city budget this year.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

ARLINGTON — The Arlington City Council voted unanimously on Dec. 3 to adopt the ordinance setting the city’s 2013 budget, marking the conclusion of a process that Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert and several Council members alike deemed at once challenging but efficient.

“I think this is the earliest we’ve ever resolved this issue,” Council member Dick Butner said at the Dec. 3 meeting.

“It was swift but tough,” Arlington Mayor Pro Tem Marilyn Oertle said. “We lost a lot of good people this year, which was extremely painful.”

Tolbert credited city of Arlington Finance Director Jim Chase with facilitating the process by providing monthly finance updates, and credited the hard work and collaborative efforts of city staff with developing a budget that holds the line to a 1 percent decrease in revenue while still setting significant funds aside for improvements to the Arlington Municipal Airport.

“This was a smooth process overall,” Tolbert said.

“It was an interesting process,” Chase said. “We learned a lot and made a lot of changes along the way, and what we got was a budget with $49,079,910 in expenditures.”

Among those expenditures are:

  • $12,878,609 for the general fund.
  • $944,135 for street maintenance.
  • $2,573,584 for emergency medical services.
  • $82,000 for capital facilities and building.
  • $10,441,800 for transportation improvement.
  • $8,997,507 for the water and sewer fund.
  • $1,533,000 for the water improvement fund.
  • $534,135 for the sewer improvement fund.
  • $232,250 for surface water capital improvement projects.
  • $3,512,640 for the airport fund.
  • $105,000 for airport capital improvement projects.
  • $1,154,132 for public works maintenance and operations.
  • $200,000 for waste water treatment plant improvements.

Among the 2013 budget’s major expenditure assumptions are that service levels for next year will likely decline in several areas due to reductions in city staff that occurred in August and October of this year, while police enforcement should increase due to the filling of two vacancies in October, and fire staffing is expected to return to its full levels in 2013.

Although cost of living adjustments were given to the new American Federation of State Counties and Municipal Employees union in November of this year, no COLA is currently being provided to management or non-represented staff. While AFSCME employees agreed to take eight furlough days in 2012, no furlough days are expected to be required in 2013. Fire and EMS employees have even consented to reduce 2013 holiday pay.

The Arlington City Council already voted unanimously to increase the city’s general property taxes, by the allowable 1 percent in 2013, during their regular meeting on Nov. 19, from $1.31 to $1.41 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. However, the Emergency Medical Services levy is already at its maximum limit of 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, and the assessed valuation of the city has declined for the fourth year in a row, so the EMS fund will be forced to levy a smaller amount of property taxes in 2013 than what was levied in 2012.

Among the 2013 budget’s major revenue assumptions are its population figure of 17,970, as determined by the Office of Financial Management for the state of Washington, and the Snohomish County Assessor’s Office preliminary estimated assessed valuation of $1,732,970,358 for Arlington in 2013, approximately a 4.9 percent reduction from 2012.

The city’s utility taxes are 5 percent for water, sewer and storm water; 6 percent for telephone, natural gas and electricity; and 8 percent for cable TV and garbage. The local sales tax for criminal justice funding is authorized at one-tenth of 1 percent of retail sales transacted in Snohomish County, while Arlington receives 1 percent of the 8.6 percent local retail and sales use tax.

The 2013 budget’s estimates for sales tax receipts are based on the prior year’s collection amounts and its utility taxes are based on estimated collections for 2012.

During the Council’s Nov. 19 meeting, Council member Debora Nelson had asked Chase, “How do you feel this budget does as far as building reserve funds five years down the line?”

“It’s hard to say,” Chase said. “We need to get through this year first, and we have to see how the economy does.”

Chase described the 2013 budget as “a difficult budget to put together, involving a lot of different scenarios,” and joined Tolbert in praising city staff for mapping out those possibilities.

There was no public testimony during the public hearing on the 2013 budget at the Nov. 19 Council meeting.

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