Lake Stevens $7 million budget shifts focus to restoring reserves

LAKE STEVENS – The City Council will conduct a public hearing at 7 tonight on the city’s proposed $7 million budget for 2005.

The council is likely to adopt its budget after the hearing.

The 2004 budget was $6.7 million. The 2005 budget includes one new position and the debt interest payments for the new police station that will be built soon.

“It’s a lean budget,” city finance director Jan Berg said.

For several years, the city has used money in its enterprise fund to add or upgrade infrastructure such as sewer lines, streets and sidewalks. Now, the focus is shifting to rebuilding the reserve fund and concentrating on economic development to provide new revenue sources, Berg said.

The city plans to set aside money for someone to work on community development, but the council hasn’t decided whether that person should be a city employee or a hired consultant. That person would report directly to the mayor.

Less land is available for commercial development and the city doesn’t have a large sales-tax base, Berg said.

Much of the city’s revenue comes from sales tax on new construction and from building permits.

The new police building will cost about $1.3 million, including purchase of the land. The police department already has nearly all the furnishings in storage. The foundation will be poured soon and construction of the modular building will follow.

The 2005 budget includes a 1 percent property tax increase approved by the council on Nov. 8. Any increase over 1 percent would have to be approved by voters.

During a retreat earlier this year, the council made it a goal to focus on annexations and putting land in the urban growth area within city limits, Berg said.

City officials have fielded questions from some residents who live nearby about being included in the city’s boundaries.

In addition, the Greater Lake Stevens Chamber of Commerce has urged the city to look at the feasibility of moving forward on the chamber’s downtown plan. That plan would revitalize the downtown area.

The city just completed a sewer extension in the Grade Road residential area, the last sizeable portion of the city with substantial property for new homes.

The council will have the second and final reading at the meeting of an ordinance for property owners to reimburse the city. The city also is pursuing a plan to form a local improvement district in the Grade Road industrial area.

Otherwise, “We’re just mainly paying on debt service on projects we have out there,” Berg said.

Under the proposed budget, the city will have a $1.3 million reserve fund at the end of this year, about 34 percent of the city’s total resources, Berg said.

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