Washougal begins 2020 budget process

City Council members set tentative public hearing date for Nov. 12

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The city of Washougal’s general fund operating budget “is very tight heading into 2020,” according to Washougal City Manager David Scott.

Jennifer Forsberg, the city’s finance director, presented city council members with a preliminary overview of Washougal’s 2020 budget during a Sept. 23 workshop.

The council is tentatively scheduled to hold a public hearing and adopt the 2020 budget at the Nov. 12 city council meeting.

City revenues are estimated to increase 3.83 percent from 2019 to 2020, and operating expenses are estimated to increase 2 percent, Forsberg said.

“Our overall general fund operating situation is that we are OK for 2020,” Scott said after the workshop, “but we will need to address the sustainability of our general fund programs as we move into the future.”

The challenges arise from the fact that the city has “frozen” many of its supplies and services for two consecutive years, Scott said.

“(That) basically means that the team is having to deliver the same services but with less buying power than it had for supplies and services in 2018 due to inflationary pressure on the things we need to buy to deliver services,” Scott said.

“By withholding inflationary adjustments to many of our supplies and services expenses for the second year in a row and reducing some of our financial set-asides for future vehicle and information technology equipment replacement, we are able to maintain current service levels without cutting any general fund programs,” he continued.

The city is planning to use some of its reserves to create a sub-area plan for redevelopment of its town center, and will leverage funds for city projects such as trails along the Washougal waterfront and near Jemtegaard Middle School, a sidewalk near Hathaway Elementary School and upgrades to the George Schmid Memorial Ballfields.

The funds come from impact fees, grants, state capital budget appropriations and Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) receipts.

“The key point (of the budget) is the great capital budget projects we are able to accomplish with the help of our 18th District Legislative delegation, for which we are very grateful,” Scott said.

City Councilwoman Michelle Wagner voiced her support of the George Schmid Memorial Ballfields project during a workshop discussion about upcoming capital projects.

The $2.6 million project would build a third baseball-softball field, upgrade the two existing fields and create amenities such as a restroom and snack shack.

“We have our prioritized list as a council and a parks board,” Wagner said. “Then some things come out of left field, like pickleball or a potential land purchase or the (Hamllik) pump track. I don’t feel obligated to vote for full-out funding for some of those things.”

Wagner added that the ballfield upgrade was a decade-long project the city has yet to complete.

“We’re arguing about funds that exist and that are already there to pay for it,” she said. “I don’t understand. It’s kind of begrudging a wonderful thing for our city.”

The city will invest $3.2 million in mandated sewer system upgrades and $680,000 in water system upgrades in 2020.

“Operationally we are able to maintain current (utility) services and comply with Department of Ecology and Department of Health mandates regarding (the operation of) our systems,” Scott said.

With the introduction of a $20 vehicle license fee in 2019, the city council was able to address one of its highest priorities: enhancing Washougal’s miles of pavement on city roads.

“We spent $750,000 for pavement management in 2018, and with the addition of the license tab fee we budgeted $863,000 for 2019 and are planning for $907,000 in 2020,” Scott said.