The Olympia City Council has approved the Finance Committee and City Manager Jay Burney's 2023 operating budget recommendation at a meeting on Tuesday, November 22.
The city council also approved the 2023-2028 Capital Facilities Plan (CFP) and directed the staff to develop ordinances pertaining to the 2023 operating budget and 2023-2028 CFP plan to be considered for adoption on December 6, 2022.
In introducing the recommendation, councilmember Lisa Parshley commented that the budget is "balanced."
"This budget responds to the council, the community, and staff requests,” said Parshley, “particularly the additional climate, housing and homelessness positions."
Pashley, the Finance Committee chair, added that funding was also set aside for implementing the Reimagining Public Safety process.
On Tuesday, the council members heard the final 2023 operating budget presentation. The city held its preliminary budget presentation on October 18 and then on November 15.
In a letter included in the 2023 preliminary operating budget posted at the City of Olympia website, Burney said the preliminary budget totals $185 million, an increase of $11.7 million or 6.8% from the 2022 adopted budget.)
Burney described next year's budget as "balanced and built in accordance with council priorities and shared commitment to cost-effectively providing services."
At the final budget presentation, Burney discussed the utility rate changes, impact fees, Basic Life Services/CARES, ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) update, and unfunded needs.
Utility rates changes
Burney showed tables reflecting the bimonthly impact of the average residential bill for utility increases. He noted that the Utility Advisory Committee supported the proposed rates:
He said the average increase is between 5.62% and 5.89%, which equates to about $14.77 to $16.53 on a bi-monthly bill.
For general facilities charges, drinking water will increase to $4,683; wastewater, $4,003; storm and surface water, $1,619; LOTT, $6,841. Burney reiterated that the Utility Advisory Committee also supported these increases.
According to Burney, parks impact fee increases, which have been frozen for the past few years, will begin to see an increase next year.
"The consultant recommended the increases will be phased-in over three years instead of all in the first year," Burney told the councilmembers.
The Olympia School District, through OSD Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Jennifer Priddy, has proposed an impact fee increase of 7.4% or $446 for single-family homes. Burney noted no proposed change for multifamily and multifamily downtown homes.
According to Burney, they need more time to work through all the numbers concerning Basic Life Support/Community Assistance, Referrals and Education Services (BLS/CARES) program.
But Burney said they addressed the BLS/CARES program to incorporate it into the 2023 budget documents. He added they built a placeholder that allows the city to move forward with the program.
"We provided language that allows the fire chief to move forward [with the program], and we will return as part of your first budget amendment with updated budget amounts," the city manager said. He added that the funding would come from the budget stabilization reserves to be paid back over time.
The police auditor budget is now $200,000.
According to Olympia Budget and Financial Manager Joan Lutz, the increase was due to the projected additional work because of the police department's body cameras program implementation.
The city also included in the budget $25,000 for the Youth Council program and $100,000 for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).
According to Burney, all of the city's American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds have been spent or allocated.
He said about $533,000 is left to offset the cost of body camera implementation into 2024.
The remaining fund for the Franz Anderson property - $1,164,522 – will be reallocated to the Quince Street property.
Burney explained that improvements on Franz Anderson with the tiny home project are now funded by a $2.9 million grant from the Department of Commerce.
Councilmember Dani Madrone inquired about what will happen in 2024 since these housing mitigation sites' funding is one-time.
"We will look at other opportunities for how we might manage Quince Street Village that might help with the cost. We will be looking for more conversations with the Commerce and the legislature about other ongoing dollars that we might be able to get for 2024 to help offset operations," Burney said.
He added that the city needs to find a way to fund the operations in the long term.
15 new positions in the various departments
A total of $525,000 is allocated for four new positions in housing and climate programs: housing and homeless director, housing program specialist, building and energy program manager, and climate program specialist.
More than six new positions are created for the utility department; two in Olympia Parks, Arts and Recreation Department (OPARD); two for Cultural Access Program; and more than one for Community Planning and Development (CP&D).
Burney noted that these positions are funded in whole or in part by new revenues, including utility charges, user fees, and Cultural Access Sales Tax.
One-time unfunded needs
The city manager said the fund covers portable restrooms and garbage pickup, encampment cleanups, and other types of support that homeless response staff need.
Burney said Climate Program Manager Dr. Pamela Braff requested funding for Thurston Mitigation work and other professional services contracts she needs.
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