City close to adopting biennial budget

The proposed budget includes a property tax levy of 1 percent.

By Dec. 1, the city of Auburn has to have certified its 2021-22 biennial budget and dispatched it to King County.

And with that statutorily-required deadline looming, Financial Director Jamie Thomas asked the Auburn City Council on Nov. 19 to adopt an ordinance setting a general fund budget of $82.3 million in 2021 and $85.6.million in 2022.

With all other funds added in, among them the city’s two-year capital budget, the equipment replacement fund, the proprietary projects fund, and the general government capital fund, the total budget sums to $189.5 million and $193 million for the respective years.

Based on preliminary evaluations and the latest construction data from the county, Thomas continued, the estimated property tax levy for 2021 will be $23.3 million, and the city’s ask of the state will be for a 1 percent increase in property taxes over the previous year

To break that down a bit, Thomas said, the 2-year capital budget will be $26.1 million in 2021 for general governmental capital — mostly for streets,transportation and parks — $3.7 million for equipment replacement funds — and $21.7 million for proprietary funds —that is, water sewer, storm systems — most of that the result of the revenue bond the city issued earlier this year for upgrades to its water infrastructure system, for a total of $51.5 million in 2021.

In 2022, Thomas said, the capital budget will be $23 million for general governmental capital, $1.8 million for equipment replacement funds. and $19.8 million for proprietary funds, summing to $44.5 million in capital projects.

“This year is a bit different than most years, which is, normally we would be able to levy a full 1 percent, and add 1 percent on to our base property tax levy, but state law actually only lets us levy either inflation or 1 percent, whichever is smaller,” Thomas said, noting that inflation is actually only 0.6 percent.

“So,” Thomas added, “state statute actually allows us, if we pass a second ordinance, to take our full 1 percent instead of being limited to 0.6 percent, which is what inflation currently is. Ordinance 6800 establishes a substantial need, saying that all of our costs in our 2021 budget are expected to increase by more than 1 percent, and we really do need the full 1 percent, which allows us to set that 23.3 million property tax levy.”

A final proposed ordinance asks the city to increase its utility tax rate on city utilities from a total of 7 percent to 10 percent.

“That was a main tenet and financing piece to balancing our 2021 and our 2022 biennial budget,” Thomas said.