Public hearing on budget was a bust
After no residents showed up at a public hearing Tuesday night to tell the Kent City Council what they would like to see in the 2009 city budget, Councilwoman Jamie Danielson tried to spark some interest.
“Please come to these,” Danielson said before the Council adjourned. “We want to hear from you.”
A second public hearing at 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at City Hall will allow residents to comment on the proposed 2009 budget. A third public hearing is slated for Nov. 18 when the Council considers adoption of the budget.
Council President Debbie Raplee said the Council wants to hear what residents think about any of the city services.
“It could be anything from road improvements to whatever,” Raplee said in a phone interview Wednesday.
A public hearing Tuesday night for comment on what to include in the 2009-2014 Capital Improvement Plan also failed to draw any residents. The Capital Plan includes numerous projects for streets, utilities and parks.
“I’m struck that no one was here to talk about the budget or Capital Plan,” Danielson said before she issued a pitch for residents to show up. “I know people have an interest.”
City Finance Director Bob Nachlinger said no residents have shown up at public hearings to give input on the budget in the five years he’s been involved in the hearings.
Mayor Suzette Cooke said after the Council meeting that the lack of interest indicates residents are satisfied with the city’s handling of the budget.
“I think the Council has been so open about the process and listens to the public,” Cooke said. “And as a team, we have covered the concerns the public may have.”
Cooke also said residents hesitate to come up with ideas to add to the budget or the Capital Improvement Plan. Cooke will present her preliminary budget on Oct. 7 to the Council.
“It’s easier for the public to respond to something rather than give input,” Cooke said. “But this is an ideal time for input.”
Kent residents haven’t always stayed away from public hearings on the city budget.
“In the past, people have had pet projects or opinions on how to prioritize projects,” Cooke said. “When we had gaps in services, people would ask for money for projects.”
The Council will have budget workshops at 3 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall and at 5 p.m. Oct. 7 at City Hall. Workshops are open to the public, but no public testimony will be taken.
Raplee encouraged residents to attend a workshop to get background on the budget and find out information they could comment on at a public hearing or Council meeting.
“That’s where discussions take place,” Raplee said of the workshops. “There’s a lot of conversation about whether we raise utility (water and sewer) fees. That will impact the budget and the amount we pay.”
Raplee said residents are invited to speak about budget concerns at any regular Council meeting, on the first and third Tuesdays of the month.
“They do not have to wait until a public hearing,” Raplee said.
The city finance department prepares a preliminary budget balancing final revenue forecasts with expenditures before the mayor sends a proposed budget to the Council. The preliminary printed budget is available between Oct. 15 and Nov. 1 at the city clerk and the finance department at Kent City Hall and the Kent Regional Library.
A balanced capital plan with updated priorities and available revenue will be incorporated into the annual budget.
City staff presented a $47 million Capital Budget for 2009 Tuesday at a Council workshop. The Capital Budget projects include $24.3 million for utilities, $10.1 million for public safety, $4.8 million for transportation, $4.7 million for parks and recreation and $2.9 million for general government (including facility improvements).
For more information, call the City of Kent Finance Department at 253-856-5264 or go to www.ci.kent.wa.us/