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Guest Opinion: City Budget Honors Commitment to Community

By Redmond City Council Member John Stilin

On Tuesday, December 4, 2012, the Redmond City Council adopted the Fiscal Year 2013-14 Biennial Budget (editor's note: see story here). Working with Mayor Marchione, we delivered a budget that responds to citizen priorities and complies with the long-term fiscal policies the City Council put in place to ensure a sound financial future for our community.

With this budget, we completed our third iteration of Budgeting by Priorities (BP). We started budget discussions early in 2012 with citizen involvement and continued throughout the year with numerous check-points to ensure the process was open and transparent. BP is an innovative approach that has caught the attention of many of our neighboring communities, and we are often asked how the process works. The process is a time-consuming exercise, and making it work takes commitment. We have a community that supports the process and a Mayor and City Council who have a strong collegial and working relationship based upon a foundation of trust and respect.

The 2013-14 Biennial Budget entails right-sizing of many services and a small reduction in the city workforce. But even with these efficiencies, our long-range financial policy called for a 1% property tax increase to maintain sound fiscal practices. The increase demonstrates that we are continuing our conservative and fiscally responsible management style that has resulted in Redmond’s attaining a Triple A bond rating (the highest available). 

By taking 1% a year as allowed by law, we mitigate the need for tax revenues over time and eliminate periodic large increases in property taxes. But even with this increase, we are still falling behind.  Labor and health care costs continue to rise, and maintenance and operations costs increase with each newly funded capital project.  Some have suggested we could tap into our reserves and contingency funds to eliminate the need for the property tax increase. If we are to maintain the quality of our community, this would only delay the inevitability of large tax increases in future years and move us further away from our objective of being financially sustainable city.

BP is based upon a concept called Price of Government, the percentage of a taxpayer’s personal income spent operating the government. In Redmond the actual cost of government is roughly 5%; with the 2013-2014 budget, the cost of government is actually the lowest it has been since we began tracking it in 1997. The City Council and Mayor delivered a cost effective and fiscally responsible financial plan to the citizens of Redmond. 

While we believe this budget is fiscally sound and honors our commitment to our community, we will continue to evaluate ways to improve the budgeting process. Your comments are always welcome. For more information, visit www.redmond.gov/bp, or contact John Stilin, Councilmember and Chair of the Public Administration and Finance Committee at jcstilin@remdond.gov.

Ken James December 15, 2012 at 09:47 PM
John, some of your comments appear to ignore the impact of the tax increase. Of course if you mandate more tax revenue, it will reduce the potential for more tax increases in the future... but that's only because you are taking it right now, before the need has been identified and before we can debate the other ways to address the hypothetical increase. If, as you say, we are still "falling behind" even with this increase, then we are faced with the same choice we have at the federal level; we can continue to raise taxes or we can reduce spending. Raising taxes will increase the burden on homeowners and renters alike and they will have less to spend for things they need and want and that will hurt our local economy. If you want to try an innovative approach to budgetting, try limiting the spending to what we can afford with our current tax rate.
AC December 16, 2012 at 10:10 AM
I am confused. If the cost of government in the 2013-2014 budget is the lowest it has been since 1997, why are we "still falling behind?"

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