City of Kent’s new budget includes litter strike team, more police

The Kent City Council unanimously approved the 2022 mid-biennium budget adjustment that restores five police officer positions, creates a litter strike team, starts a co-responder program, and pays for street and sidewalk improvements and other items.

Mayor Dana Ralph proposed her budget in September. The seven-member council signed off on those items and added a few of its own, including a sidewalk fund and money for graffiti cleanup.

“Thanks to my colleagues for bringing forward some great ideas that we were able to fund,” Council President Toni Troutner said at the Nov. 16 council meeting. “I’m very excited about the highlights we have here.”

Troutner referred to a short list of items that Paula Painter, city finance director, displayed during her presentation.

Of the total $421 million budget, $129 million is allocated to the general fund, which covers daily operations. That’s an $18.1 million jump to the general fund from the adopted 2021-2022 budget.

Ralph said much of the increase in expenditures are offset by revenue adjustments, leaving a gap of $1.7 million in which a fund balance will be used for one-time expenditures, mainly the litter strike team. That fund balance has about $43 million, monies that the council has nearly doubled over the last four years as it builds the account to guard against unanticipated events that would adversely affect the city’s financial condition.

A total of about $15.5 million of American Rescue Plan Act federal funding for COVID-19 relief covers most of the increase in spending, with much of that for limited positions or programs as opposed to an ongoing expense. Sales tax and utility tax revenues also are expected to go up in 2022.

The city will receive $28.2 million in federal relief funds due to COVID-19. The city received about half of that money in June and will get the rest next June.

2022 budget recap

Litter strike team: $1.2 million to clean up the streets of Kent. Will pay for two maintenance workers and contracted services for the next three years. Will use $1 million from the city’s general fund balance and $250,000 from the drainage fund because trash is often found in stormwater catch basins.

More police: $693,350 to restore five police officer positions that were frozen in 2020 due to COVID-19 budget cutbacks. The additional positions will increase staffing to 165 officers.

Co-responder program: $942,230 to fund a program with a police officer and a mental health worker responding to certain 911 calls.

Kent Commons: $715,000 on a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system and a gym divider curtain for the aging recreation center.

New sidewalks: $500,000 from federal relief (American Rescue Plan Act) funds to start a sidewalk matching grant fund with plans to get state or federal grants to help pay for sidewalks. If no matching grants are found, the $500,000 would be used directly for sidewalks.

Graffiti cleanup: $200,000 in federal relief funds to a King County program to employ homeless people or at-risk youth to remove graffiti around town.

Willis Street/Naden improvements: $2.8 million in federal relief funds to move forward with the removal of the northbound 74th Avenue South lane to westbound Willis Street. Drivers wanting to go westbound will need to go east to the roundabout before going west. Drivers westbound on Willis will still be able to use the existing left-turn lane to get to 74th Avenue.

Veterans Drive landscaping: $1 million from federal relief funds to install irrigation lines to the planting area that already exists along the street just east of Military Road South. When the city installed landscaping in 2006, no water lines were available. Other types of plants and flowers can be planted with irrigation available, possibly even a red white and blue display.

FlexFund: $2.7 million to help small businesses, with the specifics to be determined.

Fleet vehicles: $2.2 million to replace 42 aging Kent Police Department and Public Works vehicles.

Human services: $1.75 million for a building resiliency program, with details to be determined, but the funding would go to nonprofit organizations in the community.

Panther Lake park: $1 million to the Parks Department to create a new park in the Panther Lake area, which was annexed by the city in 2010 and lacks park space.

Restored positions: $414,000 brings back four city positions cut during pandemic reductions — two in the permit center, one at the senior center and one street fund engineer.

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Article Source: Kent Reporter