Kent’s City Council approves capital improvement plan

Elizabeth Blosfield

Kent’s City Council made adjustments and approved a five-year capital improvement plan for projects and financing through 2018 at its meeting Wednesday.

Council Ward Heidi Shaffer expressed concern with an adjustment made to increase the charter requirement to $2,750,000 in order to reflect the approved income tax collection.

Shaffer explained the charter requirement is not being spent and asked why the budget isn’t adjusted accordingly.

Budget and Finance Director Dave Coffee said any time there is underspending, the leftover expense is transferred to funds on reserve.

“The receiving of the money does not compel us to spend it in a given year,” he said.

Coffee said that as long as the additional funds are on reserve, they can be saved and accumulated over time for larger capital projects. This includes the upcoming purchase of a new fire truck, said City Manager Dave Ruller. He said the money had been set aside each year to be spent when a new truck is needed. Although there is not an immediate need, he said the money is there solely for that purpose.

In addition to this adjustment, concerns for the storm water fund were discussed. Although the city’s water and sewer funds showed stabilization and even moderate growth in the budget, Coffee said the storm water fund is projected to go negative in 2014. He said the council will need to use funds on reserve to meet these expense requirements.

Council Ward Tracy Wallach said the fund is going negative because it is used to pay personnel. She said although it was a healthy fund at one time, personnel have been taking out of it for years and it was not originally set up for that purpose.

Coffee said payroll expenses need to be covered somehow, and he is open to suggestions on how to offset this expense in other ways. However, he said the fund is expected to go negative even without its use for salary distribution.

Both Coffee and Wallach agreed to postpone discussion of the issue until it becomes relevant near 2015.

Shaffer was hesitant because nothing is budgeted for streets and sidewalks in 2015.

“I just want to say that’s a big gap in my mind,” she said, “and I’m sure everyone else’s as well.”

Coffee said each year the budget has been adjusted a little and agreed to Shaffer’s request to revisit the issue at a later time.

After all concerns were expressed and adjustments were made, Council approved the budget with all in favor.

Contact Elizabeth Blosfield at [email protected]