Kent City Council committee approves neighborhood traffic calming funds

A Kent City Council committee unanimously approved funding on Monday for three neighborhood traffic calming programs.

The action comes just a month after the council had cut the projects from receiving business and occupation (B&O) tax revenue.

But city staff discovered that the street operating fund had more money in it than expected, enough to cover the $250,000 needed to install traffic circles to slow traffic in one neighborhood and speed bumps in the other two. Work is expected to begin this summer and be finished by the start of school in the fall.

Council President Dana Ralph asked staff at the Public Works Committee meeting where the $250,000 came from.

"I checked with our finance department on that question," Public Works Director Tim LaPorte said. "There are a couple of reasons. One is our income is slightly higher than expected because of (state) gas tax revenue and other dedicated sources that go to our street operating fund. The second reason is we were able to close the books for 2013 and we had more money than what we expected."

Ralph said she talked earlier on Monday with Paula Barry, interim city finance director, and found out a similar answer.

"It's my understanding our money from the fuel tax and utility tax both came in over budget," Ralph said. "And there were a few projects that came in under the money allocated or were not done. The last one was $78,000 under budget from the street tree maintenance program."

LaPorte said the city didn't spend about $78,000 of the street tree fund, which totals about $250,000 per year.

Tom Brubaker, interim chief administrative officer, added that the 2013 budget came in stronger than anticipated.

"The 2013 budget came in with a large enough reserve so that we can deduct the $250,000 from that reserve (for the neighborhood traffic projects) and still have a sufficient reserve in place to carry over to start the 2014 fiscal year," Brubaker said. "At the advice of our finance director, our reserves are still in very good shape even if we pull this $250,000 out."

The council advised staff to try to find funds for the traffic calming projects after the council decided March 4 to remove the projects from a street repair list funded by the B&O tax.

"The intention of that B&O from the council was always to do maintenance and work needed to be done on preservation projects," Ralph said. "It was not part of that original plan to have traffic calming devices. I think some of the confusion came from public works (staff) presented us with a menu of options of projects that needed to be done not necessarily the projects that were all related to the original intent of the B&O.

"It is the intent of this council to make our neighborhoods safer. And this is not found money by any stretch of the imagination. It was conservative budgeting and conservative spending that allowed us to pull the funds together to pay for these projects. The combination of revenues coming in higher than we had budgeted and savings on other projects we were able to do this. I think that's a very good thing."

Neighborhood traffic projects

(designed to slow vehicles)

• Southeast 223rd Drive (116th Ave SE to 132 Ave SE)

Traffic circles

• 42nd Avenue South (S. 252nd Place to S. 250th St.)

Speed bumps

• 100th Avenue Southeast (SE 208th St. to SE 216th St.)

Speed bumps

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