Sammamish budget in good shape

November 18, 2013

By Administrator

New: Nov. 18, 3:13 p.m.

Sammamish is taking in more and spending less than expected, Finance Director Joe Guinasso told the City Council Nov. 5.

Guinasso is expecting Sammamish to see its reserve fund increase by about $7.4 million by the end of the year, bringing its total to more than $42 million. For the fifth straight year, the city is not proposing an increase in its property tax levy.

Virtually every part of the city’s budget was bringing in more than expected, Guinasso said. He attributed the changes to an economic recovery, and a rebound in housing construction that has come along with it.

Sammamish operates on a two-year budget cycle, with the council approving budgets at the start of odd-numbered years. Guianasso’s update came near the midpoint of that cycle.

Guinasso noted that even after the city starts spending money on its community center project next year, Sammamish could have about $37 million its reserve fund, if projections hold.

“Our finances have never been as healthy as they are,” City Manager Ben Yazici said.

All of the extra development, while helping fill city coffers, also means city workers need more help.

“Workload is up. Revenue is up, and we need to get some additional horsepower,” Yazici said.

He proposed the council adjust the budget to add 2.5 new employees to help accommodate the extra work, along with hiring some extra contract employees while reclassifying others. In total, it could cost the city about $411,000.

Councilwoman Nancy Whitten wondered if that would be enough. She feared that city employees could end up spread too thin, lowering morale and productivity.

“This ‘lean and mean’ is great, but we have to have enough that people don’t feel overwhelmed,” she said.

Yazici said he thinks the new hires should be sufficient, but noted he can always come back to the council if he feels the city needs more staff.

The council also voted to give city employees money the city receives as part of its wellness program. The program has been successful, and as long as the city stay with it, the city’s health insurance expenses are lowered by 2 percent. Typically, the city passes that 2 percent on to the employees.

Councilman Ramiro Valderrama said while the employees should get some of the money, the city should also get some of it.

Yazici said the city is getting a benefit by having healthier employees, who are then better able to perform their duties. The council voted 5-1 to continue giving the 2 percent to staff members. Vaderrama was opposed and Councilman John Curley was absent for the vote.

The city council is set to vote on the proposed budget update Dec. 3.

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