City Council approves mayor’s budget

On Tuesday night, the Redmond City Council unanimously adopted Mayor John Marchione's final 2009-10 budget for the City of Redmond.

On Tuesday night, the Redmond City Council unanimously adopted Mayor John Marchione’s final 2009-10 budget for the City of Redmond.

And in a separate motion, an ordinance levying a one percent property tax increase, commencing Jan. 1, 2009 … “for the purpose of paying sufficient revenue to carry on general operations, recognize voter-approved levy lids lifts for Public Safety and Parks and pay debt service obligations of said city for the ensuing year as required by law” passed, with five councilmembers in favor and two opposed.

Councilmembers Kim Allen and David Carson voted against the tax increase, while Council President Nancy McCormick and Councilmembers Richard Cole, Pat Vache, Hank Myers and Hank Margeson voted for it.

In discussions just prior to the votes, Cole said he supported Marchione’s budget because it preserves basic services and infrastructure while also supporting economic development. He complimented the mayor and city staff on the Budgeting by Priorities (BP) process that was implemented, as well as members of the council “two years ago who laid the framework to do this.”

Cole added, “One of the nicest things is that the budget wasn’t a surprise.”

That’s because, throughout 2008, community meetings were held to gather residents’ opinions on how they wanted their tax dollars to be spent. Priorities were weighed and Results Teams looked at how the most-requested services and programs could be delivered with greatest cost efficiency.

“I liked the ranking process to fund items with only the highest priorities,” Cole remarked.

McCormick praised Cole for his influence, explaining that he’d brought in copies of a book called “The Price of Government” which was the foundation of the BP approach. She said she was “thrilled to see rooms full of citizens engaged … and in the end, it works almost flawlessly.”

Vache agreed and also said that “in this time of immense economic turmoil, Redmond is in a position of strength” because the budget “matches programs to expectations” and shows “commitment to continuous improvement.”

Allen admitted, “I was a complete skeptic going into this budget,” but said she saw good things as the process advanced and “especially appreciated the way staff worked in a cross-disciplinary way.”

She further noted that she supported the budget but not the one percent tax increase because “finances of the people of Redmond are overwhelmed.” She said she believed cuts in city spending could be made to offset the tax revenue.

Myers remarked that he was “happy to support the budget” and had “great trust in the mayor and staff” based on the ways they had worked through the process.

Margeson echoed sentiments that engaging “cross-functional teams and members of the community” was a positive experience and said, “I liked the process with early education … discussions not being brought in at the eleventh hour.”

He continued, “The budget is not perfect. There are things we’d like to add or subtract … but it’s been very open, transparent and does reflect the interests of the community.” He said he supported the one percent tax increase as keeping up with rising costs of government, whereas “living within our means and adjusting spending accordingly” is still necessary.

Carson stated, “This was not the budget I would write verbatim but pretty darn close … I would not support the one percent increase, I would rather move funds around, but will support the budget.”

In response to concerns about the one percent tax increase, Marchione explained that “four years ago, Council came up with a long-term plan to have a steady foundation, so we’re not rocking from side to side. It’s not politically easy, but financially prudent.”

McCormick concurred that in light of inflation, the one percent tax increase would not generate much revenue toward city staffing, maintaining sports fields, fixing potholes and other basic needs.

Allen countered that “citizens are being asked too much at a time when people are so strapped.”

Also on Tuesday, a motion passed to add $25,000 to the city’s contract with the social service agency Hopelink, for emergency assistance to individuals and families who’d otherwise be unable to access critical services.

Full details of the 2009-10 City of Redmond budget are posted on the city’s Web site,