Answers to Questions
1) Currently the City of Snoqualmie's operating budget is heavily dependent on residential property taxes. What specific initiatives would you propose that might ease that dependence?
The best response to this dilemma is for the City to work hard to live within its means. The City must find ways to reduce its budget from Cadillac services. It is important to treat the money of our residents with respect and make sure the City is giving excellent value. In addition, residents deserve absolute clarity about where the money is going and be given a choice about spending. If people are paying utility bills (water and sewer) that money should go for utility projects only.
If a city grows too fast, taxpayers will be hit with rising costs for schools, transportation, and other services. According to a 2000 study by the Columbia Public Interest Policy Institute for Washington State, growth tends to increase tax rates, contrary to conventional wisdom. Areas with the faster development have the greatest tax increases. This means the City needs to moderate its growth and be very strategic about how it uses its capacity to absorb growth.
Finally, are developers paying their fair share to expand our infrastructure? I know they pay a lot but we are, too! Let’s make sure growth is not drowning the people of Snoqualmie as we struggle to have enough roads, utility services and schools.
Rigorous oversight aimed to create excellent value with every dollar by Council, along with the City’s ability to obtain grants and public moneys from outside Snoqualmie could easily allow us to live within our means and continue the great city we now have.
2) Do you support the City of Snoqualmie expanding the community center and building its own pool on that site with an estimated $10 million of city funds or do you support the city partnering with Si View to build a $43-$47 million regional aquatics facility at a potential cost of $19 million in city funding? [Note: Si View recently identified Snoqualmie at a school board meeting as a 50/50 potential partner for a regional facility]
While I support a pool for the people of Snoqualmie, I’m not sure that either option is right for our community. Community pools are great for kids, swimming lessons, school teams, water sports competitions and fun family activities. It’s great exercise for all of us and is particularly good for anyone with injuries or medical issues.
The City says a new pool partnered with the YMCA will cost $10 million. But what size pool will this buy? To be truly useful for our community, we need one with at least 6 lanes and some estimates for that are as high as $19 million. In the City’s recently passed Non-Utilities Capital Improvement Plan, https://www.ci.snoqualmie.wa.us/DocumentCenter/View/29038/2020-2025-Non-Utilities-Capital-Improvement-Plan-Online-Version-PDF $10 million is allocated for the entire community center expansion project which also includes tripling the size of the current YMCA, an expansion of the cardio center, parking, meeting rooms etc. It is unlikely that $10 million will cover all of that plus a six lane pool. It is entirely unclear exactly how much we, the citizens will end up paying for a pool that is sufficient to meet all the needs of our children, youth and adults. If we are doing it, let’s do it right!
I think a multi-agency effort, possibly including North Bend and King County in a regional proposal should be considered. It could easily be sited in Snoqualmie. Let’s explore all of our options with an open mind. Finally, spending this much money should only be done with strong public support and approval.
3) What specific initiatives or policies would you propose to improve the retail climate in Snoqualmie so that buildings like the former IGA and Ana's Mexican restaurant would not sit empty for months on end? What, if anything, can the city do to help private business recruit new tenants for these vacant spaces?
If a building, like the former IGA site, goes unfilled, the City should engage in a dialogue with the owner to see what each party can do to quickly ensure there is a new renter. Some landlords choose to keep a property empty for months or years hoping for a deep-pocketed tenant. Creative market-driven solutions can be suggested and supported with City led marketing. For instance, Pop-Up retailers renting for a few months, or Space in the Raw (using the building for corporate meetings or parties), or different leasing agreements can keep the space occupied without a long-term commitment.
It is critical to the health of our community to have our businesses and storefronts filled and thriving by protecting and supporting the commerce we have now. Strategies should be explored to protect locally owned businesses against unfair competition from large corporate franchises, for example.
Making sure the city doesn’t spend so much money that it has to raise taxes should always be the goal. Some other cities have misled the public into supporting local improvement taxing districts while those tax hikes actually drove local businesses out of business.
Government needs to stick to the basics: clean, well maintained streets, great parks, and a safe environment. This creates a good business climate. The City can be efficient and fair in reviewing remodeling permits and should be careful to support all our local businesses equally. The City should not be in the business of determining winners and losers. Everyone should win.