Oak Harbor council schedules in-person budget meeting

Long-term capital projects, property tax increase among considerations

Oak Harbor City Council is gearing up to set the budget for the next two years.

The council will be holding an in-person meeting to discuss the financial ins-and-outs of its projected biennium budget of $215.2 million.

The mayor’s preliminary budget for the city is $12.6 million less than it was in the previous biennium, or a decrease of 5.5 percent.

During a Nov. 4 workshop, council members supported having an in-person meeting to talk freely about the budget.

The council has held virtual meetings since spring after the COVID-19 pandemic forced shops, schools and local governments to close their doors.

Councilmember Joel Servatius proposed an in-person meeting, and other members agreed.

During a city council meeting later the same day, the council decided to schedule a special budget workshop for Nov. 12.

They will meet in-person in city hall chambers and hear presentations from staff while maintaining COVID-19 public health guidelines.

The public will be able to attend the meeting virtually.

The preliminary budget does not include a raise for employees because of the changing financial situation of the city, Mayor Bob Severns wrote in a budget document. It is publicly available on the city’s website.

It also does not call for hiring any new employees.

The budget does recommend that the city increase property taxes by 1 percent.

Cities are limited to increasing property taxes by no more than 1 percent under Washington state law.

The budget document anticipates that applications for building permits will decrease in the next two years and, thus, bring down revenues by about 1 percent. However, sales taxes are expected to stay strong.

As for its income from utilities, despite water and sewer rate hikes recently approved by the council, the city said it predicts “mixed results.”

The tax revenue for water, sewer, solid waste and electricity will see some increase, but telephone and natural gas tax revenues will likely drop, the budget document said.

A public hearing to set the property tax levy is set for Nov. 17. A public hearing to adopt the final biennium budget is slated for Dec. 1.

The budget document also includes a list of projects.

The six-year Long Term Capital Plan beginning in 2021 “includes all capital requests that represent the actual projected capital budget (for 2021 and 2022) and planned capital budget for future years,” according to the document.

The city’s total capital budget for 2021 and 2022 is $31 million, and the total capital budget for the next six years is $56.985 million.

Some notable projects have origins in the city’s utility funds, although the long-term capital plan includes goals for departments citywide.

The sewer fund has 10 capital requests in 2021 for a total of $3.2 million, including $877,717 earmarked for “remaining expenses” at the city’s Clean Water Facility.

The water fund has 19 capital requests in 2021, including one for $2.3 million to relocate a water main near Campbell Lake Road and State Highway 20 in Anacortes because of a planned roundabout at the intersection.

The storm drain fund has four requests slated for 2021, including one for a Freund Marsh Feasibility Study/West Outfall Drain Pump feasibility study for $400,000 (the same project has a request in 2022 for an additional $550,000).

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