Thank you for covering and reporting on the City Council’s last meeting on Dec. 13 regarding the funding for parks.
I would like to commend the City Council members for having the integrity to reject dipping into the B&O tax account that was intended to fund vital and dramatically underfunded road repairs. This tax base, at its most optimistic estimates, is insufficient to cover the annual requirements and backlog to maintain our streets. And yet, the mayor and a few members of the City Council have repeatedly sought to utilize these funds for other purposes, the latest of which for the parks budget.
As a member of the Kent Financial Sustainability Task Force and as a small business owner, it is quite disheartening to continue to see attacks at the very intent and need for the B&O taxes’ exclusive use for roads. This is a basic infrastructure need that had been severely underfunded, particularly during the recession.
It is an unfair tax, one that taxes on gross revenue, regardless of profitability, and yet the business community largely supported the ordinance as they understood the importance of well-maintained roads, both for their business logistics and for their workforce. Both the task force and the business community agreed that these funds should not be diverted.
I am also extremely concerned, as other citizens should be, with the complete lack of transparency in Councilwoman Dana Ralph’s proposed amendment to the budget which failed at Tuesday night’s council meeting. The budget process started months ago. There was plenty of time to pursue an open dialogue with the residents, business community and parks department about sustainable funding.
Instead, those who engage with the process were entirely left out and surprised by the last-minute amendment to the budget, circumventing the public process. Instead of a positive collaboration, we are left with a closed and secretive process, which frankly after the whole Pine Tree Park debacle makes me worried for the future of our City if Councilmember Ralph becomes our mayor.
It is also my opinion that the council did the right thing by not using banked property taxes to fund parks. The Financial Sustainability Task Force was tasked to find ways to offset the known funding sunset of the Panther Lake mitigation agreement with the state. We recommended that banked property taxes could be a possible funding source to take care of that upcoming known shortfall. If this funding source were committed to other areas now, we would have much less to draw from for critical functions in a few short years.
Finally, it may sound like I am against the parks system, which could not be further from the truth. There are many opportunities to find sustainable ways to fund ongoing maintenance that do not include sacrificing funding for critical infrastructure or unfairly burdening one area of revenue producers.
– April Sta. Rosa