Bellevue residents will probably be asked to pay more in property taxes next year so the city can avoid major cuts in services, city officials say.
Bellevue last raised property taxes in 2010.
“We simply cannot hold the line any longer,” City Council member Kathy Saniuk said.
At tonight's City Council meeting, staff members will present their proposal for how the city should spend money in the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Under the proposal, the 2013-14 budget would total $68 million. That's down from the current year's approved budget of $70 million. The proposed 2014-15 budget would drop to $58 million.
Bellevue homeowners currently pay about 55½ cents per $100 of valuation. The proposed budget would increase that by about 3½ cents next year, Finance Director Richard Severson said. The rate would increase by an additional cent for the following year, or 60 cents per $100 of valuation.
That means about a $50 tax increase for a $150,000 home, plus another $15 the following year.
Council members considered a draft budget without any tax increases, but they said that would mean unacceptably steep cuts to services.
Bellevue surveyed residents online to ask what they would like to see in the budget.
“Interestingly enough, there were many respondents that supported increased taxes to sustain or increase the level of service,” Severson said.
The budget proposal still includes cuts to certain city services, but Council President Don Preister said he doesn't expect Bellevue residents to see major changes.
“Their garbage will be collected just like it is, the police will be patrolling just like they are (and) we should see good response times from the Fire Department,” he said.
A slight decline in total property valuations, along with decreases in other income, means that without a tax increase, Bellevue would take in less next year than it did this year, officials said.
On the spending side, Bellevue faces mandatory increases in wages and other areas.
Between the decrease in income and the increase in costs, Bellevue faced about a $5 million budget hole.
In addition, the Fire Department's system of using part-time firefighters has been stretched nearly to a crisis point, Fire Chief Perry Guido has said.
This year's budget includes about a dozen positions that, if approved, will become Bellevue's first full-time firefighters. That would help relieve pressure on the part-timers and possibly improve response times.
Another big expense for next year is the cost of moving the Police Department into a new building at 1510 Wall St. Eventually that building complex will house all of City Hall.
The 2013-14 budget proposal includes about $8 million for the Police Department move.
Council members declined to detail spending cuts in the budget proposal but encouraged residents to contact the city or attend the public hearing to tell officials what they'd like to see.
Councilman Steve Knutson said the cuts are affecting every department, including the council and Mayor's Office.
“Everybody's taking their bite out of it,” he said.
The city had already begun the process of budget-cutting this year. The council approved a budget of more than $70 million but made midyear cuts of about $7 million.
Some of that savings will go toward next year's budget of about $68 million.
“Citizens should know that we're really working hard to better plan the future of Bellevue financially,” said at-large council member Carol Blood.
The next step is for council members to propose and vote on their changes.
The council will hold a public hearing on the budget Aug. 26 and vote on the final version Sept. 9.