The city of Monroe has released its proposed 2018 budget, with expenses estimated at around $62.2 million. What tends to be the city’s largest fund is anticipated to grow by 2.44 percent by the end of next year.

The process to approve the plan will take about two months, according to Monroe Mayor Geoffrey Thomas’s introductory message. The first public presentation on the budget before the Monroe City Council will be on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

“It is just the beginning of the budget season,” Knight said. “...It (the budget) is significantly different than the one seen in past years — there is a whole lot more information in here, and hopefully we’ll be able to quickly move through the budget process.”

Finance director Becky Hasart handed councilmembers the preliminary budget last Tuesday, and the pages were posted on the city’s website on Sept. 27. Hardcopies are available at the Monroe Public Library, Monroe City Hall and the East County Senior Center.

The city has just less than two dozen funds, where money is taken from to pay for different projects planned in a given year, according to the budget. Each project above a certain dollar amount is taken to the council at a later date; councilmembers must vote to approve spending the money at that time.

The different funds have different revenue sources, Hasart said. Charges for services, such as fees or field rentals, property tax, sales tax, or the real estate excise tax (REET), which is taken in whenever real property changes hands, are a few. Revenue for special funds, such as the city’s lodging tax account, may come solely from the lodging excise tax, which is collected any time a person stays in one of Monroe’s hotels or motels. The city can only spend that money on tourism. Other funds may have a variety of revenue sources, she said.

“The originating sources of the different revenues dictate in which fund we account for them,” Hasart said.

Taxes make up about 61.4 percent of next year’s General Fund budget, according to the budget. The account is usually the city’s largest and pays for the most general services, including police, parks, community and economic development, municipal court, records and legal services.

Revenue from sales tax and property tax is expected to rise next year without changing the rates, according to the budget. Because of the new construction taking place in the city, there will be more homeowners paying property tax, which is projected to generate an additional $90,000.

Sales taxes were last raised when residents approved a 0.1 percent hike in 2013, according to the budget. The resulting money has been used to hire on more patrol officers, create Elisa Delgado’s two-year embedded social worker pilot position, which costs $50,000 per year, and fund code enforcement and animal control.

Next year’s budget includes a proposal to purchase $7,500 in equipment for Monroe Police Department  staff to use to test drugs, according to the budget. It will be used to protect officers and evidence technicians from exposure to harmful materials. About $30,000 to purchase a new system for the department’s interview rooms that can record audio and video at the same time is also being requested.

The city council is scheduled to adopt rate increases for water by 7.5 percent and 4 percent for stormwater for 2018, according to the budget. These are annual increases the city has staggered over five years “to minimize unexpected fluctuations to its operational needs.” No increase for sewer services is planned.

Proposed projects from other funds include carrying out the master plans being developed for the Cadman pit site and Lake Tye Park. Both plans are expected to be adopted in January. An overhaul of the Sky River Park playground is being proposed, which will incorporate ADA accessible features. The plan is similar to the project completed at the Lake Tye Park playground this spring.

If approved in the budget, construction to improve the intersection at Blueberry Lane and North Kelsey Street will take place next year, and the 191st Street extension project design work will begin, according to the budget. The city also plans to market the empty lots around North Kelsey Street and fill in vacant spaces, such as old Albertson’s building.

Next year’s budget proposals were chosen to achieve the priority of economic development by bringing in more businesses and retaining ones already here, bulking up tourism promotion, and developing an economic development advisory board.

The idea for the advisory group came from collaboration between the city’s department heads. The hope is to have selected members in meetings by the end of the year. Their list of priorities will need to be finalized around the end of spring 2018, so the 2019 budget can include funding for some of those projects.

A focus is also planned for next year on partnerships with local groups, such as the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Monroe Association, Snohomish County Tourism Bureau and Sky Valley Chamber, as well as with other towns along the U.S. Highway 2 corridor. The connections are expected to improve the experience of visitors to the area.

Hasart said a public hearing on the projected revenues for 2018, and a hearing for consideration of an annual potential property tax levy, is scheduled for Tuesday. That evening Knight will also present to the councilmembers about the process for how and when the advisory board will be formed.

The entire budget will be presented to the council for review on Tuesday, Oct. 10. The first and second reading of an ordinance setting the property tax levy will be held in late October and early November. The 2018 budget is scheduled for adoption on Tuesday, Dec. 5. 

The budget must be finalized by Dec. 31, Hasart said. The city council has the choice to extend any planned workshops or make changes to the preliminary budget at any time, she said.