I attended the December Kent City Council meeting to better understand the proposed operating budget and why a potential increase in property taxes would be needed.
One of my takeaways is how easy the 2017 decision for mayor will be.
In 2015, Councilwoman Dana Ralph created an ordinance that ensured to the business community, the B&O tax that the city of Kent implemented, would be used exclusively for road repairs and some administrative burden. This was greeted positively by businesses. As we all know, the roads in our city are terribly in need of service.
In previous years, the City Council passed an ordinance to set a general reserve or “rainy day fund,” to cover any budget shortfalls, should an unforeseen capital expense be necessary or the economy experience headwinds; i.e. as in 2008-2010, this was approved by council members and set at 10 percent.
The mayor appointed a financial sustainability task force to prioritize where budget dollar spend should be prioritized; our city parks didn’t make the top five; while important, they were aptly prioritized behind policing, public works, roads, water and sewer and IT.
During the meeting last month, Ralph introduced a budget amendment that would reverse course and use ($2 million of) B&O tax revenue for parks and not its 2015 communicated and committed use – roads.
Effectively, Ralph is looking to re-prioritize parks above really important issues like public safety, public works and roads.
At that same council meeting, Councilman Jim Berrios came up with a plan to find additional funding for our parks without alienating our business community by going back on its word as it relates to use of funds. His amendment would utilize the surplus reserve while still maintaining a reserve that is greater than the council’s mandate of 10 percent. Berrios’ plan achieves the same end goal as Ralph’s amendment without increasing taxes or reallocating funds that have been committed to other projects, most notably the roads.
I have to say, from watching Ralph in action, it felt like a “business as usual” politician whose only answer is to raise taxes. Ralph is neglecting the business community by going back on her word and looking to appropriate B&O funds for purposes other than what they were intended.
In that same meeting, I observed Berrios in the role of problem solver and a person who understands the business of government and budget spending.
My takeaway: I want our highest elected Kent officer to display integrity in everything they do, from keeping their word to increasing our quality of life and safety.
When you compare the actions and approach of Ralph and Berrios, it really is a simple decision, Berrios will represent the residents and businesses of Kent with integrity and great solutions.
– Jerry W. Hardt