Kent mayor proposes major park projects in 2020 city budget

Kent Memorial Park to get synthetic turf

A conversion of the Kent Memorial Park baseball field to synthetic turf from grass leads one of several major park projects proposed by Mayor Dana Ralph in her 2020 city budget adjustment package.

The $2 million project includes installation of a multi-use field as well as new restrooms, lighting and bleachers for the facility at 850 Central Ave. S.

“The money that we are putting in will allow us to leverage significant grants for that conversion, and it will provide opportunities for increased revenues from use of that park all year round,” Ralph said during her budget presentation Tuesday night to the City Council.

The council passed a two-year budget last year for 2019-2020, but the adjustment this fall allows for changes in 2020 depending on city revenues. The council adopted the budget last year figuring the state Legislature would take away from Kent nearly $4 million annually in streamlined sales tax mitigation funds. But legislators adopted a budget that keeps giving the city that money for at least two more years.

“It was nearly eliminated,” Ralph said. “We did not budget for it in 2019-2020. After much effort, the city was able to secure that revenue for another two years. Unsure of the certainty of the future of that revenue stream, these dollars are best treated as one-time monies to be used for one-time projects.”

Ralph proposed using an estimated $3.86 million in streamlined sales tax funds in 2020 combined with $3 million already in the capital resources fund (mainly from the B&O square footage tax and Real Estate Excise Tax) to pay for nearly $6 million in projects, with the Kent Memorial Park work the most expensive.

Other projects the mayor proposed by using the capital funds include:

• $1 million for Riverview Park (South 255th Street and Hawley Road) development along the Green River Trail. Park improvements will allow for walking, running, biking, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, kite flying and provide a restroom.

• $600,000 for Meet Me on Meeker promenade to be built for about 750 feet from 64th Avenue South to Kent Elementary School to provide a new entrance to the school and a midblock crosswalk.

• $500,000 for Meet Me on Meeker landscaping along the Riverbend Golf Complex driving range to construct a promenade at the midblock crosswalk east to Russell Road.

• $400,000 for Mill Creek Canyon Earthworks cleanup as a first step to reinvest in the park at 100 Reiten Road. The project will include taking steps to address the extensive buildup of homeless encampment garbage and refuse within the canyon that affects the natural environment and safety of park patrons.

• $400,000 for Fourth Avenue South and Willis Street roundabout to provide placemaking and landscaping designs to compliment the planned $3 million project by Public Works to convert the intersection to a roundabout.

General fund budget

Ralph also proposed a general fund budget of $108.6 million in 2020, a $2.3 million increase (2.1 percent) from the adopted 2019-2020 budget. Higher sales tax revenue of $959,000 will cover much of that increase as well as use of about $500,000 from the general fund balance that sits at about $26 million.

The highest increase in expenses is $951,830 for salary and benefit hikes due to bargaining agreements. Expenses will go up another $146,830 for officers who participate in the body-worn camera program that started Oct. 1. Officers get a 1 percent pay hike for wearing the cameras. Revenue from the city’s new red-light camera program will cover the officer pay increase.

Kent Police will get two new detectives at a cost of $294,180, with most of that cost covered by a reduction in payments from the city to the Puget Sound Regional Fire Authority for two positions that the RFA will cover.

The council will discuss the proposed budget adjustment at its 5 p.m. Oct. 15 workshop. Residents can testify about the budget at the Oct. 15 regular council meeting at 7 p.m. The council is scheduled to adopt the budget on Nov. 19.

Council members reacted favorably on Tuesday to the mayor’s proposal. Council President Bill Boyce said he likes the plan to spend money on parks.

“There is a big allocation for our park system and that is something we have not put enough attention to in the past with other things going on, but this is an opportunity to give back to our parks,” Boyce said.

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