The proposed 2011 budget totals $39,339,415, and represents a 3.6% increase over the initial 2010 budget of $38,031,537, and includes the Skyline Marina Dredging project, paid for by the boat slip owners, and a large capital expenditure replacing the heat exchanger and aeration blower at the WWTP. With these projects removed the budget is more representative and is .85% larger than it was last year. This slight increase in the year-to-year budget is negotiated increases. Once again this year, the city limits capital expenditures in response to lower real estate excise tax (REET) funding, and building-related impact fees. The budget reflects city departments’ continued efforts to be prudent in all of our discretionary spending. While sales tax and building permit revenues have increased slightly over 2009 levels, revenues overall continue to be well below historical norms and this has made budgeting for our general fund departments more challenging than in previous years. The proposed budget reflects conservative expenditure proposals that reflect this economy.
Consistent with the City’s commitment to maintaining and improving our infrastructure, we have budgeted for several public works projects including finishing the Pennsylvania Avenue road upgrade project started late in 2010, and continuation of the SHIP Harbor Interpretive Trail in the Parks and Recreation Department. The City will also be undertaking a number of projects within the utility funds; the most significant is the water treatment plant expansion project. This will be the largest public works project in City history and one of the largest in Skagit County history.
The following is a departmental overview of the 2011 preliminary budget:
Departments worked closely with the finance department and my office to prepare a budget that provides a high level of service to our community within the parameters of a 1% property tax increase and in an environment of declining sales tax and other general revenues. The City has a fiscally conservative philosophy to maintain cash reserves when at all possible, particularly in the general fund, our most critical fund. Anacortes remains one of the lowest taxing cities in Skagit County with a 2010 millage of $1.50/$1000 of assessed value. Property tax revenues largely fund operations of the City’s general government departments, including Police, Fire, Museum, Human Resources, Parks and Recreation, Legal/Courts, Library, and Streets; essentially all departments excluding the utilities.
Anacortes supports the region’s social needs with the following budget allocations:
• $28,500 Skagit County Senior Services for staffing needs at the Anacortes Center;
• $5,000 for the local food bank emergency fund;
• $5,000 regionally shared Energy Conservation Resource Manager;
• $5,000 Skagit County Community Action Agency, and
• $10,000 Anacortes Chapter of the Skagit County Boys and Girls Club to support children with demonstrated financial needs.
Police: The Police Department prides itself on the declining crime rates the City has experienced over the last six years and seeks to maintain the best possible service while making every effort to help reduce costs. This includes using the Oak Harbor City Jail when possible, partnering with other local law enforcement to achieve training goals, and taking steps to reduce facility operating costs.
Fire/Medic: The Fire/Medic Department provides a high level of service in delivering fire protection and advanced emergency medical services. The department continues to find solutions for improving the radio communication system. 2011 funds are budgeted to invest in mobile repeater systems to improve onsite communications by firefighters inside buildings carrying portable radios. It is important to maintain a high level of training for our firefighters, paramedics, and EMTs and we have been utilizing a facilitated training locally whenever possible to help us reduce training costs.
A restoration project for our 1924 American LaFrance fire engine is fast coming to a close with the help and dedication of a few skilled volunteers. As in past years, money is budgeted in 2011 to complete the vehicle restoration and we are anticipating an unveiling of this vehicle in the next July 4 parade.
The Growth Management Act sets aside specific fees and taxes to enhance communities absorbing the impacts of growth. The City receives revenue in the form of utility hookup fees and impact fees for streets and parks when new building permits are issued, and real estate excise tax (REET) on the sale of homes in our city limits, all of which are used to fund public works projects. The economic downturn over the past three years led to a significant slow down in housing construction and house sales, which significantly reduced impact fees and REET. These funding sources are not expected to increase significantly by 2011, and this is reflected in the smaller number of public works projects budgeted for this year and for next year.
We hope to be able take advantage of grant and recovery funds and other available resources for projects that will enhance our city streets, sidewalks, and utility infrastructure in 2011.
Streets/Trails: The 2011 budget contains funding to complete the highly anticipated Pennsylvania Avenue connection, providing a city street connection between Jasper Way and Anacopper Mine Road. The Pennsylvania Avenue project will begin this year and construction is expected to be complete by mid 2011. Funds are budgeted for crack sealing, thermo plastic striping and for maintenance of city streets. In 2011, the City will begin work on Fidalgo Bay Road in a cooperative effort with the Samish Indian Nation.
Water Treatment, Transmission, and Distribution: The 2011 budget includes initial funding for a portion of the Water Treatment Plant expansion project. The project is expected to begin in early 2011 and be completed in 2013. A new sedimentation process will reduce turbidity loading on filters and expand our water treatment capability, quality and reliability. This project will allow the City to ultimately further utilize the water rights negotiated as part of the 1996 Memorandum of Agreement and will posture the City of Anacortes to be able to meet water quality and quantity requirements for the next 50 years. Funds are budgeted for the replacement of the North Texas Road waterline.
Wastewater Treatment, Collection, and Conveyance: The Wastewater budget includes projects to improve our wastewater infrastructure and is funded by a portion of sewer connection fees. The 2011 budget provides $132,000 to continue work on the L Basin Inflow and Infiltration reduction project and $145,000 for Phase II of the programmable logic controller upgrades. Included in the budget is $700,000 to replace the incinerator heat exchanger, with an element that captures and reutilizes wasted heat from the incinerator for other energy and cost saving projects. $145,000 is budgeted to install a new energy efficient blower; Puget Sound Energy has tentatively approved a 70% grant for this project, which is expected to save approximately $2000 per month in current electricity costs.
Storm Drainage: The storm drain fund has accumulated capital cash reserves from general facility charges collected from past building permit sales. These reserves will fund a number of projects for the upcoming year that include: $96,000 for improvements at Pennsylvania Avenue in conjunction with the road construction project; $60,000 for a water quality project in the Anaco Beach Road area; and $50,000 for storm outfall reconstructions.
Sanitation: The operating budget includes $20,000 in capital funding to purchase replacement dumpsters. $15,000 was budgeted in 2011 for debris removal from the sweeper debris and dewatering facility completed last year.
Equipment Rental and Replacement (ERR): The ERR fund continues to monitor and serve the City’s equipment requirements to replace aging equipment in 2011. Equipment scheduled to be purchased includes a street sweeper, three police cars, a replacement truck for the Wastewater Treatment Plant, and a mobile air compressor that will be shared by the street and water department.
Facilities: Facilities will continue to focus on reducing the amount of electricity, natural gas, and water consumed and used to operate city-owned buildings. So far this year, we have lowered our utility consumption by 16% citywide. We will increase efforts to recycle more of the waste created through our daily job routine. Employees will receive educational materials about conservation and we are all working hard to share and implement energy saving ideas citywide.
The 2011 budget has presented challenges in meeting the costs of operations, and the library has aggressively sought ways to be prudent with public funds. The Library reduced the number of computer terminals and printers to lower costs, will discontinue several periodicals, gleaning them from donated items, and will drop two out-of-area newspapers when the subscriptions expire. The Library is experimenting with 3-day closures over holiday weekends to save additional staff and facility costs.
The Library continues to be an increasingly popular resource for local citizens and visitors to Anacortes, providing meeting room space, classes, Internet access and a wide variety of programs. There are the Jazz and Maritime collections in addition to books, periodicals, audio and downloadable books, and movies. Visits to the Library increased 13.2% last year. The meeting room was booked 554 times in 2009, and the room has already had 622 bookings this year (a 12.27% increase to date).
The 2011 budget includes $41,836 for new materials.
As in the prior year, this year’s Legal budget includes a contract City Attorney, contract Public Defender, and contract Prosecuting Attorney. The Anacortes Municipal Court continues to be very busy, with two court days per month, and a third court date for mitigations and contested traffic infractions. A fourth court date is set aside for jury trials, if the need arises.
Planning/Economic Development & Building
The Planning and Economic Development Department has several large projects scheduled to begin in 2011. The department has budgeted $25,000 for economic development and the Anacortes Futures Project, and another $10,000 to begin providing wayfinding signs throughout the City. This year’s budget also accounts for the funding of the Community Development Block Grant program and staff time to administer the program.
The Building Department’s budget is relatively unchanged from last year. The department will continue to scan and archive old building files to reduce physical filing space and preserve records.
The human resources department focuses on prevention and training as a risk management strategy and a way to reduce liability. Our director is involved with the Association of WA Cities (AWC) Employee Benefits Advisory Board and WA Cities Insurance Authority’s Loss Control Committee as a means of managing these risks.
The City is cognizant of the large expense associated with health insurance premiums. We are actively pursuing recognition as a Well City by AWC in 2011. Designation as a Well City provides the City with a 2% discount on medical premiums in 2012 resulting in significant savings.
The City has multiple-year contracts in place with Teamsters Local 231, the Noncommissioned Police Guild, and the International Association of Firefighters Local 1531. To date, the City has not reached a bargaining agreement settlement with the commissioned police guild. The most recent contract expired on December 31, 2009. Binding arbitration with the Commissioned Police Guild is scheduled in late January 2011. The arbitration process is expensive with attorney and arbiter fees and the binding decision can create significant financial implications to the Police and Human Resources Department budgets.
The Museum has budgeted for a new feature exhibit at the Museum’s Carnegie site and to upgrade its permanent core exhibit to provide an overview of Fidalgo and Guemes Island history. Exhibits in the Maritime Heritage Center will continue to be developed. The Museum’s research library is heavily used by residents and visitors alike, and staff will focus on fine-tuning that service as well as continuing to produce books and other materials about local history. Staff will continue an inventory of the Museum’s collections and their efforts on preserving and digitalizing the collections.
Parks and Recreation
The Parks Department budget maintains its level of service from 2010 while working harder to maintain programs and to be even more cost effective in its spending. Staffing levels and basic maintenance expenses remain at 2010 levels.
In 2011, $275,000 in REET funding has been budgeted for phase two of the Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve Trail and $75,000 has been budgeted for the Guemes Channel Trail.
This current economy has been most challenging and unpredictable for each of us and for our community as a whole.
To reiterate, I am proud to report, as in all previous years of my administration, we are presenting you with a balanced budget.
Our success and our strengths to date are reflective of our ongoing commitment to quality infrastructure and our diverse community and business makeup. We are fortunate to have an engaged and collaborative city council, professional staff and involved citizens who are also committed volunteers. You, our citizens, have helped us to provide services to our community that are well above our budgetary ability. Thank you!
Once again this budget is fiscally conservative while working to maintain and enhance the high level of service consistently provided to our citizens. The proposed projects in the 2011 budget are well thought out and help to strengthen our infrastructure.
I look forward to your input regarding the 2011 budget.
H. Dean Maxwell