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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, November 16, 2012

Council Roundup: Visioning work to address capital needs

Also, utility, permitting rates to reflect higher costs

The City Council signaled their intention to stick with a no-new-taxes plan as they move toward finalizing the 2013-2019 capital budget. But in the new year they want to take an in-depth look at prioritizing much-needed capital investments and how to pay for them.

Councilmembers had requested more information on a "4-1-4" property tax proposal to help fund a backlog of projects, mostly road improvements. Four percent increases in 2013 and 2015 would have funded projects, and a 1 percent increase in 2014 would have covered maintenance and operating costs.

However on Tuesday, the council opted to defer discussion about revenue options and capital projects until next year and instead move forward with the city manager's recommended seven-year capital budget.

"Given the economic prospects, including the fiscal cliff and continuing federal deficit, I believe this is the right course of action," said Mayor Conrad Lee. "At the same time I'm open to beginning the process of looking at what good and wise investments we should be making."

Lee suggested a community visioning process early next year to get the public involved in project prioritization, timing and revenue options to address the unmet capital needs.

The dialogue on Tuesday was part of a broader process as the council works to finalize the 2013-2014 operating budget, in addition to the capital budget. The operating budget, described as a "status quo" spending plan: includes no general tax increases, assumes slow economic growth, maintains reserves, adds some new economic development programs, and adjusts utility and permit rates to cover higher costs.

Next steps in the budget process include a public hearing at the Nov. 19 council meeting; a Nov. 20 focus group of invited guests to consider a long-term vision for the city; and further discussion of the budget during the Nov. 26 council meeting. The council is slated to adopt the budget at its Dec. 3 meeting.

council agenda item 

Feedback: Toni Rezab, Assistant Finance Director, 425-452-7863 or TRezab@bellevuewa.gov

Proposed rate increases for utilities and development services
The council also reviewed proposed rate increases for the Utilities and Development Services departments.

Utilities is looking at raising water, sewer, and storm rates in 2013 and 2014. Much of the increase next year is a required pass-through of the cost of water sold to the city by Cascade Water Alliance and wastewater treatment by King County. The rate increases would also fund infrastructure maintenance and key capital projects.

If the council approves the rate increases, the typical single-family residential customer would see their total monthly bill increase by 10.1 percent in 2013, from $123.52 to $135.97. In 2014, their monthly bill would rise another 5.9 percent, $8.06, to $144.03.

Even with the rate increases, Bellevue's water, sewer and storm rates would be competitive, in the mid to lower range when compared with neighboring cities, Utilities Director Nav Otal noted. By containing costs, the department was able to limit the proposed rate increases, she said.

The Development Services Department is proposing increases of 6.3 to 6.9 percent in the hourly rates charged for land use, transportation, utilities and fire review and inspection services to bring rates into line with the cost of the services and to meet established cost recovery policies. A 2.7 percent adjustment in building review and inspection fees is also proposed.

A gap emerged between fees and the cost of services provided in 2010 and 2011, when hourly rates were held constant to keep construction costs down for builders and developers struggling through the economic downturn. The council closed part of the gap last year, with a 5 percent increase in hourly rates.

From 2010 to 2012, the Development Services budget was cut by $4.2 million, with more than 30 staff positions eliminated.

The proposed hourly rate and building permit fee adjustments are expected to generate an additional $712,000. As the economy recovers and more construction takes place, that revenue will be necessary to add staff for continued fast, predictable services, Development Services Director Mike Brennan told the council.

Feedback: Lucy Liu, Assistant Utilities Director, 425-452-4445 or lliu@bellevuewa.gov; Mike Brennan, Development Services Director, 425-452-4113 or mbrennan@bellevuewa.gov

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