• Council Roundup: 2020 budget performance better than expected

    Published June 9 2021

    Plus, new Downtown Park entry takes shape and Spring Boulevard takes home multiple engineering awards

    On Monday, the City Council unanimously voted to accept federal funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), passed by Congress to address the impacts of COVID-19. The approval was part of a larger budget briefing that included an update on the city’s finances.

    Despite $4.5 million in reserves spent to help balance the $24 million loss in revenue due to pandemic-related impacts, Bellevue’s General Fund performed better than expected in 2020. The remaining delta was addressed through expenditure reductions such as hiring delays, and reduced costs associated with closed facilities. Bellevue was also helped by federal CARES Act funding to effectively respond to the pandemic. 

    Financial performance in 2021 is starting off close to budget expectations. A winter storm response and some other one-time expenses in the first quarter have contributed to budget pressures, but the current full-year forecast shows the city should use less reserves in 2021 than expected. Recovery from the pandemic is expected to materialize much quicker than in past economic recessions, but Bellevue still expects that in less than five years, expenses will outpace revenues, which is an issue the city was actively addressing prior to the pandemic.  Councilmembers will receive additional public briefings on the budget later this year. 

    The APRA funds total $20.1 million over two years and will be approved for allocation on a future consent calendar item. The funds can be used for further response efforts to the public health emergency, aid to impacted industries, essential worker pay, recouping revenues lost due to COVID-19 and for critical investments in water, sewer or broadband infrastructure. 

    The full budget presentation is in the meeting materials.

    New Downtown Park entry takes shape 

    Downtown Park NE Gateway at night

    In 1983, the City of Bellevue purchased the land that is now Downtown Park from the Bellevue School District. Since then, piece by piece the park has grown into its current form through the Downtown Park Master Plan. In early June 2021 another milestone, and one of the final pieces of that master plan, was substantially completed with the Northeast Gateway plaza and entrance to the park off of Bellevue Way and Northeast 4th Avenue. 

    The Northeast Gateway is a key entry point into the park intended to create a connection from downtown through the park to Old Bellevue and on to Meydenbauer Bay Park; all elements of the “Grand Connection.” The new entry plaza includes a water feature and gathering space, and will include public art when completed. 

    The major public art piece is scheduled to be installed in late summer, creating a focal point for the entrance and providing an integrated structure complete with a covered canopy of organic art forms. A community celebration event is planned for that time. The northeast corner of the park also features an historic arch from Union High School, an homage to the school that stood on the park grounds prior to the city’s land purchase. The arch serves as the entrance to the park’s formal garden.

    The full discussion on the construction completion and further park plans, along with several images of the Northeast Gateway elements, is available through Bellevue Television.

    Spring Boulevard takes home multiple engineering awards 

    Cyclist on Spring Blvd.

    In other council business, the city’s Northeast Spring Boulevard project recently earned three industry awards for overall quality and engineering excellence. Spring Boulevard is the primary gateway and transportation backbone for the BelRed area, which is in the process of transforming from an underutilized light industrial area to a mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhood.

    The recognition is for the first two segments of the new corridor, from 116th to 124th avenue northeast. It includes five vehicle lanes, a multipurpose path, five signalized intersections, two bridges – over the Eastrail regional trail and the East Link light rail line – landscaping, lighting and other improvements. The design focuses on a complete streets concept, in which the roadway is safe, convenient, and comfortable for people of all ages and abilities, regardless of travel mode.

    The 2021 awards are from the Washington Chapter of the American Public Works Association (project of the year, $25-$75 million category); Seattle Chapter of American Society of Civil Engineers (local outstanding civil engineering achievement); and Washington Chapter of the American Council of Engineering Companies (engineering excellence). More information, including the presentation detailing the awards, is available in the council agenda materials.