Mount Vernon city budget approved
MOUNT VERNON — The Mount Vernon City Council unanimously approved Wednesday the city’s 2019 budget and a 1 percent increase in the city’s property tax rate.
“Revenues have been flat and, obviously, expenses are not,” said Doug Volesky, finance director with the city.
Volesky said the 1 percent increase — the maximum allowed annually by the state — was necessary to contend with rising costs and to balance the budget.
The city’s $75.3 million budget is 24.6 percent larger than the 2018 budget.
Volesky said that includes about $10.1 million in capital projects, which are largely funded by outside sources.
An additional $3.1 million is being allocated to the fire department to fund the city’s larger role in emergency medical services, he said.
This includes hiring 17 new employees, but the cost of the new hires is offset by ambulance transport revenue and by money from the county’s EMS levy, he said.
“Even though it looks like a big increase, there really isn’t much there,” he said.
At Wednesday’s council meeting, Mayor Jill Boudreau highlighted one category where the city is spending more.
“We’re spending a quarter of a million dollars on addressing homelessness,” she said.
This funding is going toward a park ranger and a new public works employee who will be responsible for handling homeless encampments.
The city’s government operations budget increased 14.6 percent over 2018, which Volesky said mostly is because of negotiated increases in personnel costs and other fixed costs.
“There’s a lot in our budget we don’t have a lot of control over,” he said.
In terms of services, he said the operations budget is at or below 2018 levels.
This year, he said the city had to deny over $1 million in requests from city departments, including the hiring of a new police officer.
Volesky said this year’s budgeting process left him convinced the City Council needs to talk soon about how the city will fund itself going forward.
“We need to talk about our revenue streams and expenditures,” he said. “There’s nothing left to cut, except maybe city services.”
Information on the city budget is available at mountvernonwa.gov, under the finance department page.