Kent City Council to vote Nov. 17 on proposed 2021-2022 budget

A new position of a equity manager part of the proposal

After making a handful of changes since Kent Mayor Dana Ralph proposed the 2021-2022 city budget in September, the City Council will vote to approve it during a virtual meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17.

Ralph proposed a status-quo budget for the most part with the addition of a equity manager to help the city focus on equity in its projects, programs and service delivery. That will cost about $243,790 in 2021 and $218,420 in 2022. The expenses include salaries and benefits, consultant services ($50,000 in 2021) and supplies ($25,000).

A consultant will help create an equity and social justice strategic plan for the city, Ralph said.

The proposed budget is $107.1 million for 2021 and $110.7 million for 2022. City leaders earlier this year countered an anticipated $15.7 million revenue loss in 2020 due to COVID-19 by cutting 11 full-time employees, using $5 million of general fund reserves, reducing the capital budget transfer fund from the general fund by $3.2 million, eliminating the summer parks recreation program and using $1 million from the city’s Health and Wellness Fund.

Because of the those cutbacks, which also anticipated revenue losses in 2021, further cuts to the budget were not necessary.

The council changed the budget by adding another $350,000 in spending in 2021, including $200,000 on programs to try to help youth before they develop mental health issues and commit a crime; $100,000 to research a mental health professional co-responder program with police officers; and $50,000 for a police data analysis consultant.

Funds from a recently approved 0.1% sales tax hike by the council to raise about $2.8 million per year to pay for affordable housing and related services will be used to help pay for those proposals. Another $50,000 will come from the general fund reserves for the police data analysis consultant.

“The mayor presented her budget and then it became the council’s budget to work through,” Council President Toni Troutner said at a Committee of the Whole virtual meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 10 when the council advanced the proposal to the Nov. 17 meeting. “I want to thank all of my colleagues and the time you put into the budget. All of you put a lot of thought into it and I think it’s reflected in the current budget and highlights we are looking at now.”

Finance Director Paula Painter presented the highlights, which included the proposals added by the council.

The council will consider the budget during the other business part of the agenda next week, which means council members will have a chance for their final say about the proposal.

“I’m extremely proud to move this budget on,” Troutner said after no council members raised any further questions or other proposals. “It’s been a very long process but a good one.”

The council agreed in September that it wouldn’t take any steps to defund the police department, emphasizing that the Kent Police Department already has fewer officers per 1,000 residents than other Washington cities with a rate of 1.24 officers per 1,000 residents.

Ralph included in her budget and the council agreed to spend $1.72 million over the next two years to purchase 24 police vehicles (12 each year) at a cost of about $72,000 each in order to continue the city’s car-per-officer, take-home program that the city started in 2018 with the purchase of 14 new vehicles. Money for the new vehicles will come from the city’s red-light camera fund.

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