Washougal mayor proposes economic development initiatives

Next budget workshop is set for Nov. 13

The mayor of Washougal is hoping City Council members will see the value of several ideas in the 2013 proposed budget.

Sean Guard said during the Oct. 22 council workshop he would like to “kick start” commercial development activity by introducing a “fee holiday” for 2013. It would eliminate most of the fees for commercial and mixed use development.

Traffic impact fees and utility system development charges would remain.

“The goal of the ‘fee holiday’ is to incentify development to get started sooner, to add to our property tax base and increase sales tax revenue,” Guard said. “Preliminary program parameters would require construction to be started in 2013 and completed by the end of 2014.”

Since the proposal could cost the city $70,000 in lost revenue, he is suggesting the city use $70,000 of unrestricted and un-allocated reserves to offset the loss.

“This use of reserves in the short term is an investment in our economic development efforts toward enhancing our economic health in the future,” Guard said.

He is also proposing the creation of a $500,000 property acquisition fund to use reserves for the purchase of properties in the downtown core. The properties would be developed as parks, open space or public parking. Specific property transactions would require council approval.

With the inclusion of those projects, the city would have a reserve balance of $3.11 million. That is 27.7 percent of the operating expenses. Council policy requires reserves of 16 percent of the operating budget be restricted for internal cash flow purposes.

The $31.57 million proposed budget includes a fund of $95,000 to help low income residents pay their city utility bills.

The next budget workshop is set for Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m., in the council chambers at City Hall, 1701 “C” St. During last night’s meeting, the council set a public hearing on the budget for Monday, Nov. 19, at 6 p.m.