Sammamish budget is so rosy it’s in the black
May 27, 2014
By Ari Cetron
New: May 27, 2:45 p.m.
Sammamish is flush with cash.
The 2013 budget numbers are in, and expenditures were below what was budgeted, while revenue was above projections, Finance Director Joe Guinasso told the City Council May 20.
Total expenditures for 2013 were budgeted at a bit more than $53 million, but only $35.7 million was spent – almost 33 percent under expectations.
Guinasso was quick to note that not all of the low expenditures will translate into savings – much of it is money that was budgeted in 2014 but wasn’t yet spent.
On the revenue side, a booming real-estate and construction market has lined the city’s coffers.
“This was the development dividend,” Guinasso said.
The city expected to take in $39.3 million but actually brought in just less than $47.5 million, nearly 21 percent more than expected.
Sammamish consumers were more active than government had anticipated. Sales taxes were budgeted to bring in $2.77 million and actually brought in $3.32 million, almost 20 percent more than anticipated.
An active real-estate market also helped the city. The city had expected to bring in $2.2 million in Real Estate Excise Taxes – taxes paid when real estate changes hands. But that amount more than doubled, bringing in more than $4.6 million.
Building permit fees were about 44 percent above budget. However, those fees are used to offset the cost of processing the permits, and the city cannot transfer the extra money into its accounts.
The expense side is a bit trickier to pin down.
While there were savings on expenses, many of the big-ticket items involve money that was budgeted and not spent, rather than a true cost savings.
But there are savings.
In particular, $4.7 million was budgeted for the community center, which will be spent in future years. Another $3.5 million was set aside for improvements to the Town Center area, and $1 million was budgeted for fixing Snake Hill Road.
Other monies are being kept on hold for contingencies. For example, King County has yet to complete negotiations with sheriff’s deputies. Since Sammamish contracts with the county for police services, an increase in pay or benefits could end up costing the city a bit extra. They’ve set aside $184,000 just in case.
Total expenditures came in about $17.4 million under what had been budgeted, but $13.3 million of that will be carried forward to be paid in future years. As a result, there is an actual savings of $4.1 million.
The savings is not, technically, a surplus yet. The city operates on a two-year budget cycle, and that runs until the end of 2014. Only when the budget ends are leftover amounts considered a true surplus.
And early indications are that there will be a large surplus at the end of the year.
The city had projected its fund balance – the accumulated surpluses of past years – would be $57.4 million at the end of 2014, but that’s likely to go even higher.
The city is not likely to spend $3 million in budgeted contingencies this year, nor the $3.5 million set-aside for Town Center’s infrastructure. Additionally, the city had been prepared to spend a bit more than $2 million to start its own fire department, money it won’t have to spend after all.
Guinasso said the new projected ending fund balance is $65.97 million. He further noted that $15.6 million of that is earmarked for the Community Center project.