To the citizens of Enumclaw and Enumclaw City Council Members,
Let us not overstate the year of 2020 and all that we have experienced. And it is not yet over even as the year 2020 draws to a close. These issues are expected to carry over into 2021. In case you have been in a cocoon I am speaking mainly of COVID and the surrounding problems that have affected every aspect of our community. Economically, schools, employment, visiting family and friends. The list can be quite long and I do not wish to burn through several trees of printing reams of paper explaining what we already know.
Let’s not forget the important issue of social justice our country has been confronting and the efforts to work for change that continues by several traditional organizations and cities. The awakening is healthy to a democracy to assure that all are equal. The conversation and action will continue.
Wildfires and smoke. Having a fire outside of Enumclaw at milepost 30 on Hwy 410 was getting to close for our community. Air quality and health alerts were a daily view online in hopes things were improving. With fire crews from several departments including those from Enumclaw, all welcomed the rain to assist in diminishing these fires. We thank each of those fire fighters on what they did in keeping our city safe.
Our community has endured quite a bit collectively and I would add ‘Stay optimistic as All Things Must Pass’, to borrow a title from George Harrison. You know one of The Beatles.
And now for something completely different, the budget for 2021.
As in past years the City of Enumclaw’s budget process began on July 1st. Publication of the city’s budget was completed on October 1st. Council workshops start on Monday, October 5th, with consecutive Monday workshops with hopes to conclude on Monday, October 26. Many difficult and important decisions will be discussed and determined as requests were gathered from city departments, administration and outside agencies.
This year I am recommending that we approach our city’s budget with caution. We must continue to be nimble enough to react to declining revenues with minimizing pain to citizens and services that the city provides. Preparing a budget that factors this into the revenue and expenditures now, will provide less of an impact if the worst occurs in the coming months. That is not to say that all projects are set on a shelf. It is recommended that these are taken individually and reviewed on how they will provide a better environment for those it will affect now and in the future.
Sales tax is one of the key ingredients that could be the swing factor in our city’s budget in 2021. Will certain sectors in the city continue to outperform from past months and years? Will other key contributors start to level off or even decline that could have a significant impact on city revenue? Will our city’s property tax revenue increase with the additional homes built? Any or all occurring declines with revenue in the later months of 2020 or early part of 2021 will determine how the city may need to adjust department and other expenditure requests to keep a balanced budget.
Because of the cautionary approach taken by administration, some funding requests did not receive every dollar requested. One factor that was taken into account were funds provided in 2020 may not have been fully utilized due to locations being closed for weeks or even months in some cases. True, this is not through action they took, but rather through state requirements. However, it is with this same caution that we, as stewards of citizen’s dollars, need to factor in the past with the future when considering 2021 expenditures.
Building permits will begin to step down as large developments have now built out their lots. Smaller developments that are now being seen in the community are contributing to some stable revenue, however it is not equal revenue being generated. This will need to be monitored during the 1st and 2nd Quarters of 2021 for a trend line to develop so if the city needs to react, it can be done early.
As in past years our community is in a state of change. With COVID and state mandated closures, this budget reflects those changes. Some areas in the budget saw reduced funding, while others received adequate funds to apply to projects that will benefit the city and citizens over the long term.
Again, this year I am recommending that we as a city keep our reserve balance strong to anticipate any future negative revenue impact that is not foreseen. It is prudent to be cautious with General Fund and utility reserves as the gathering clouds form and the report comes in indicating how and where these revenues will settle. To quote from my budget letter from last year, “In strengthening our capital reserves, especially when the economics of our city is strong, is not unlike the squirrel storing food for the winter. We know that now is the time to provide for the unknown events ahead, an economic slowdown, that at some point will occur. When the economics do turn and a strong reserve, it can put the city into a position of making decisions without panic as there will be that financial cushion local government can rely on to function, while determining the severity of the economy and which future approach might be needed regarding the city budget.”
The budget being submitted for the year of 2021 is responsible under current conditions and still provides the community with needed core services. As always, decisions can be difficult as one is pulled in several directions. However, I know each council member will study, discuss and work diligently to finalize a fair budget for all concerned.
In closing I wish to thank all city employees for their hard work and dedication to the city. COVID threw many into a scramble to deal not only with work, but also with home life and families. They all make this city function daily with incredible commitment.
Thank you to the many citizens that serve and volunteer on the numerous commissions and boards. Without you stepping up to assist your local government we would not be able to proceed with decisions that affect our city.
To each non-profit entity and volunteers that have been doing extra duty to those in need, a huge thank you. It must be said that this year especially, your work is needed more than ever.
When 2021 arrives, I hope we move together towards the same goal of providing the citizens of Enumclaw with the highest level of core services with efficient spending.
Mayor Jan Molinaro