Dear Honorable City Council Members and Citizens of Enumclaw:
I am happy to transmit to you my proposed city budget for the year 2014. This budget reflects a continual process over the past three years transforming city operations to achieve financial stability in response to the economic downturn and the very slow recovery of our city and Puget Sound region. The organizational changes made since 2010 ensured that city government lives within its means. Stability and core services continue to be our focus and goal.

Our budget estimates are conservative but allow us to keep core services staffed to reasonable service levels, avoiding overtime, reduced morale and contract expenditures associated with cutting staffing too deeply. We can avoid drastic cuts in levels of service that would be imminent if an overly optimistic revenue projection is assumed.

During the past three years another area of our community that has fallen upon extremely difficult times are the areas associated with human services. When the economy is down and less revenues are available unfortunately those areas of service are greatly hindered in their abilities to meet increasing demands. Economic improvement is slowly underway and I will bring forward in 2014, to council, a policy that would allow for a specific percentage of the general fund to be set aside each year to offer aid to human service needs which in turn will allow those local organizations to begin to build their “rainy day” fund.

It is this balance of revenue and service level that we seek to provide on behalf of our citizens. It is important to acknowledge staff and city employees and thank them for their dedication, patience and willingness to take on extra tasks and work with less through these arduous economic times.

Looking forward into 2014 the General Fund now experiences the “new normal” of property tax revenue and the reality of dramatically reduced state shared revenues. While it was necessary to implement new business models to preserve service levels, the recent annexations into King County Fire District 28 and the King County Library System have reset the city’s property tax levy from nearly $2.2 million to less than $1.4 million. The General Fund now relies more heavily on sales and utility tax revenue, both of which declined during the Great Recession. Despite this, we see signs of a slow recovery in commerce as monthly sales tax revenues gradually inch towards pre-recession levels and utility tax revenues remain stable overall. We anxiously await an uptick in construction activity as this remains the most obvious signal that economic recovery is truly underway. Several subdivisions have received preliminary approval in the last few years but actual inventory of finished lots is extremely low and stands as a reminder of the financial challenges we face as a community.

Capital project funding continues to struggle due to lack of new construction and property sales. The decline of Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) revenue has stabilized, but is not sufficient to accomplish any significant capital improvements to our aging infrastructure. Impact fee revenue is virtually non-existent as are capital facilities charges for water and sewer. Unfortunately, existing water and wastewater ratepayers continue to shoulder the burden of debt for increasing the capacity of those systems in anticipation of future growth. Any increase in development activity will have a positive effect on utility rates.

City Council will change significantly in 2014 with the addition of four new members and I am optimistic your new council will implement key economic development strategies associated with a “unified vision” that will place our city in the best possible position of financial stability therefore achieving long term sustainability. It is imperative the work of the Enumclaw Transportation Benefit District quickly develop and champion a long-term sustainable revenue source that will allow all users of our road systems to contribute to this fundamental core service of street pavement maintenance. Though insufficient city revenues exist to address our street maintenance and preservation needs, city staff continues to pursue state and federal grants as the best currently available funding source and will continue to utilize available grants in the future to offset costs to taxpayers. Fortunately, the Public Works Department was successful in obtaining a $507,000 grant from the Transportation Improvement Board for resurfacing the southern two-thirds of Semanski Street in 2014.

The Economic Development Task Force that I assembled in June 2012 produced a draft report of their recommendations for public review in July 2013. Once this final process is complete a written comprehensive strategic plan will be presented to council in January 2014. I applaud the efforts of the task force members, each of which represent a successful local business and volunteered their time to develop strategies to improve the city’s economy.

Mayor’s recommendations to the task force are:
  • Recruitment of living wage business opportunities into our area.
  • Work collaboratively with Chamber of Commerce implementing a “Shop Local” market campaign and the Enumclaw Courier Herald publishing a visitor/residence guide.
  • Implement a plan between public/private sector addressing future redevelopment and enhancement of underutilized city properties.
  • Implement policy setting aside a specific percentage of annual general fund revenue for capital projects in future budgets.
In 2014 city staff will undertake a major update of the city’s 2005 Comprehensive Plan. This is yet another opportunity to enhance our economy and implement strategies of the task force.

The 2013 major overhaul of permitted land uses within our zoning districts has already been well received as a more business friendly model… as a new brewery is scheduled to open soon and a downtown distillery is in the planning stages. Without these code changes, both of these businesses faced expensive and time consuming processes with an uncertain conclusion which could equate to loss of potential new business in these rapidly expanding markets. This land use code update required many hours over many months of city staff, Planning Commission and public review. These code changes adopted by the City Council will keep Enumclaw a business-friendly community.

Enumclaw is truly unique in Southeast King County, with a strong sense of community amid wide-open vistas and a small-town atmosphere that has existed for over 100 years. I am excited about our opportunities that lie ahead to make our great city ever better in its next hundred years and I look forward to working with the City Council and citizens to implement the 2014 budget.

Mayor Liz Reynolds