Kent City Council approves status quo biennial budget for 2023-2024

Council members agree with budget proposal mayor presented in September

It will be a status quo city of Kent biennial budget for 2023-2024.

The City Council voted 7-0 to approve the budget Nov. 15, pretty much the same proposal given by Mayor Dana Ralph in September.

Ralph thanked the council for its approval. She worked with city staff to propose a budget after getting input from the council.

“My hope with my presentation is that you saw something important to you in the budget,” Ralph said at the council meeting. “It’s an important document to residents to show what our values, missions and goals are.”

The $852 million biennial budget includes about a $235 million general fund, used for the day to day operations of the city.

With high inflation rates leading to higher salaries and project costs, Ralph proposed a budget without new programs or staff increases to help keep costs down, unless the programs or job hires were covered by other revenue sources. The city has about 745 employees.

City leaders increased funding in several areas with the use of $5.7 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) relief funds in the budget, given to the city to combat the cost impacts of COVID-19. Other new projects have their own revenue sources.

A few of the new expenditures include $1 million for equity projects in 2023; $1.84 million in 2023 and $1.8 million in 204 for police enhancements; $624,890 in permit center staffing in 2023 and $774,050 in 2024; and $15.5 million for infrastructure in 2023 and $15.2 million in 2024.

The equity projects will include development of the city’s race and equity strategic plan, from programs to service delivery.

Police enhancements includes $906,000 per year to continue the police department’s car per officer program, where officers take the vehicles home with them. The funds will cover buying six vehicles each year. The city’s expansion of red-light cameras at additional intersections will help cover the vehicle costs.

Permit fees will cover the costs of additional staffing in the city permit center. Numerous construction projects in the city have increased permit fee revenue.

Increased revenue from sales taxes and the real estate excise tax will allow the city to spend on new capital projects, including $24.5 million for a new Kent East Hill Operations Center. Besides additional shop space the project will include a warehouse building for use by Public Works, Parks and Police departments. Another area will be dedicated to offices, locker rooms, a lunchroom, restrooms and possibly a police substation.

The budget also shifts the city’s reliance on property taxes to support the ongoing operating expenses and instead uses all sales, utility and business and occupation (B&O) taxes to pay for the general fund. More of the property tax revenue will pay for capital projects where a portion of the sales and utility taxes now go. The capital resources fund helps pay for projects such as streets, parks, facilities, vehicle fleets and information technology.

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