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Originally published Sunday, November 4, 2012 at 9:01 PM

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Eastside cities' proposed budgets reflect more stable revenue

The Eastside's three largest cities, Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond, are studying no-drama budget proposals for the 2013-14 biennium.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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After two years of painful downsizing, Bellevue's revenues have stabilized and the city is looking at a status-quo budget for the next two years.

Executives in Kirkland and Redmond, the Eastside's largest cities after Bellevue, also have proposed no-drama budgets for 2013 and 2014. Unlike Bellevue's, those budgets assume a 1 percent increase in the property tax.

Fees for water, sewer and stormwater management are likely to rise in all three cities.

Kirkland voters will decide Tuesday whether they want to raise taxes to beef up road maintenance, maintain and rejuvenate parks, and build an interim Cross Kirkland Trail.

Although Bellevue won't raise taxes for basic operations, the City Council is beginning to talk about whether to raise property taxes to address a backlog of unfunded roads, parks and other capital projects.

The Bellevue, Kirkland and Redmond city councils are scheduled to adopt budgets in December. Here are some highlights of the proposed budgets.

Bellevue

Even after Eastgate-area annexations this year brought the city's population to 130,000, City Manager Steve Sarkozy proposes to hire only six more employees. That would restore only a fraction of the 100 positions eliminated or frozen since the recession forced significant cutbacks.

"This is a status-quo budget," Assistant Finance Director Toni Rezab said of the two-year, $1.3 billion spending plan. " ... It's balanced and it's sustainable, and I think residents would appreciate that. And we did it without a general tax increase."

The City Council has held the property tax unchanged since 2009, when it boosted it by 3 percent in the first of what were then scheduled to be 10 years of increases to pay for road improvements, largely in the Bel-Red Corridor and near downtown.

The council has begun to look at Sarkozy's "4-1-4" concept of raising capital funds by increasing the property tax by 4 percent in the first year for bonded capital projects, by 1 percent the next year to maintain the new projects, and repeating that pattern.

It is unclear whether a council majority would support the idea, or when the first increase would occur. Among the many projects under consideration are a new Bel-Red Corridor arterial, a West Lake Sammamish Parkway biking and walking trail, neighborhood sidewalks and Meydenbauer Bay Park development.

Even without new taxes, residents will pay more for government next year in the form of higher utility rates. Passing along higher wholesale rates from the Cascade Water Alliance and King County's wastewater division, along with other cost increases, the budget proposes raising the typical household's monthly charges for water, sewer and stormwater management from $123.52 to $144.03.

Kirkland

The city is still adjusting to last year's 32,000-resident annexation that boosted its population to 81,500.

After seeing fewer calls than expected for emergency services in the new North Juanita, Finn Hill and Kingsgate areas, City Manager Kurt Triplett proposed a 2013-14 budget that would fund seven fewer police and court positions than originally planned.

Voters will decide Tuesday if they want to fund a few additional positions citywide through a street-maintenance levy of $70 a year on a median $346,000 house, and a parks maintenance and improvement levy of $55.

"We have made some reductions throughout. We are trying to be very fiscally disciplined, cautious in adding any costs," Triplett said of the budget. The city also is replenishing its recession-depleted reserves.

Construction will begin next year on a $27 million public-safety building in the former Costco Home center in Totem Lake. Total proposed spending in the biennial budget is $540 million.

The City Council has approved hikes in water and sewer rates. They, along with stormwater fees, will rise less steeply than that proposed in Bellevue, from $126.50 a month to $132.25.

Redmond

After eliminating 50 positions over the past four years, Redmond would see a net loss of only one additional position under Mayor John Marchione's proposed budget.

"This budget reflects the tight economic conditions of the past five years by living within our financial plan, delivering high-quality services in new ways and reducing services where the demand has decreased," Marchione wrote in his budget message.

The financial plan identifies $581 million in spending and reserves. Funds are earmarked for future development of Downtown Park.

Two key capital projects got a boost Oct. 25 when the Puget Sound Regional Council approved federal funding for design of a bike and pedestrian bridge across Highway 520 at the future Overlake Village light-rail station, and for conversion of Redmond Way and Cleveland Street downtown from one-way into two-way streets.

Marchione's proposed budget calls for a 2 percent increase in the water rate and a 4 percent increase in the sewer rate. Budget staffers haven't determined how the rate increases would be structured, or what the dollar amounts would be.

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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