Also, Bellevue post offices consolidating
Councilmembers on Monday approved a 2012 property tax levy that includes no increase in the base amount collected from Bellevue property owners. Also agreed to were fee increases for development-related services such as inspections and reviews.
The two unanimous votes were related to the city’s 2011-2012 mid-biennium budget review. The council is grappling with how to close a $6.5 million deficit in the two-year general fund budget, mostly due to the slow rebound of the economy. Adoption of the mid-biennium budget is expected at the next council meeting on Dec. 12.
Bellevue's 2012 regular property tax levy as approved Monday calls for collecting $32.95 million, which is up 1.1 percent over 2011, but due entirely to new construction and technical adjustments. Another $4 million for a parks and natural areas levy passed by voters in 2008 brings the total to $37 million in 2012.
That means the total property tax rate will be $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2012, one of the lowest rates among cities in the area, compared to $1.14 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2011. The total assessed value for all properties in Bellevue is set at $31 billion in 2012, down from $32.1 billion in 2011. The owner of an average Bellevue home, with an estimated value of $546,000, will pay a total of $650 in property taxes to the city, in addition to taxes paid to the state and other taxing districts.
Also approved Monday was an approximately 5 percent increase in hourly fees charged by the Development Services Department in 2012 for permit reviews and inspections in functions such as land use, transportation, fire and utilities. Increases of 1 to 5 percent, depending on the function, would be added in 2013. The fee adjustments are the first since 2009.
Development Services have been especially impacted by the economic downturn. Last year, the department eliminated 26 positions to lower costs by $2.8 million; in 2012, an additional 15 positions will be cut to save $1.4 million.
While most of the $6.5 million general fund budget gap will be closed through proposed spending cuts, including the elimination of 17 full-time equivalent positions, a shortfall of about $2.7 million still needs to be addressed.
Councilmembers decided to postpone approval of the mid-biennium budget update as they consider proposals to increase revenue and cut spending, including additional layoffs or employee concessions.
Mayor Don Davidson asked whether unions representing employees in the city's Police and Fire departments would consider accepting a lower cost-of-living adjustment than next year's 3.7 percent increase called for in labor contracts. A lower COLA for all city employees, including non-union workes, could save up to $1.6 million.
"We've been tearing our hair out about what to do about this," Davidson said. "It's possible we'd like to ask for some concessions. I'm doing it publicly because we're getting down to the wire of being able to do the mid-biennium budget."
On the revenue side, councilmembers are considering implementation of an emergency medical services fee for transporting "basic life support" patients to hospitals. The recommendation is for a transport fee of $600, plus $14 per mile, for patients with less serious ailments, comparable to other cities and fire departments in King County.
The new fees would generate an estimated $1.1 million in additional revenue annually for the city's general fund. However, some councilmembers have expressed concern about possible impacts to residents.
For more information on the 2011-2012 mid-biennium budget see the council agenda materials at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketStudySession12-5-112a.pdf
Feedback: Toni Rezab, Budget Manager, 425-452-7863 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Post offices to close, consolidate
Bellevue's main and Midlakes post offices are slated for closure by mid-2013, a U.S. Postal Service representative announced before the council Monday.
The Postal Service plans to consolidate the retail operations for both offices in a new location downtown or in the medical district. The Crossroads Post Office will remain open.
"Due to the challenging economic times we all live in, the Postal Service finds itself needing to close some offices and consolidate others," said Russell Rainey, a real estate project manager with the Postal Service's Western Facilities Service Office in Denver.
The Postal Service will sell both the Midlakes and main post offices, Rainey reported. The Postal Service is looking for a location for the new retail office, where customers could buy postal supplies and post letters and packages. Mail carriers and trucks will operate out of a separate facility, Rainey said.
He noted that the Postal Service is interested in 10,000-square-foot buildings with 100 parking spots, preferably in the greater downtown area bounded by Northeast 12th and Main streets and 120th and 100th avenues.
The Postal Service will take public comments on the consolidation for the next 30 days. Comments may be sent to: Western Facilities Service Office, 7500 E. 53rd Pl., Room 1108, Denver, CO 80266-9918, or via email to Bellevue postmaster Dung Nguyen, at email@example.com.
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