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Bellevue to look at budget needs next year

The Bellevue City Council signaled its  intention to stick with a no-new-taxes plan as it moves toward finalizing the 2013-2019 capital budget. But in the new year, councilmembers want to take an in-depth look at prioritizing much-needed capital investments and how to pay for them.

Councilmembers had requested more information on a “4-1-4” property tax proposal to help fund a backlog of projects, mostly road improvements. Four percent increases in 2013 and 2015 would have funded projects, and a 1 percent increase in 2014 would have covered maintenance and operating costs.

However on Nov. 13, the council opted to defer discussion about revenue options and capital projects until next year and instead move forward with the city manager’s recommended seven-year capital budget.

“Given the economic prospects, including the fiscal cliff and continuing federal deficit, I believe this is the right course of action,” said Mayor Conrad Lee. “At the same time I’m open to beginning the process of looking at what good and wise investments we should be making.”

Lee suggested a community visioning process early next year to get the public involved in project prioritization, timing and revenue options to address the unmet capital needs.

The dialogue on Nov. 13 was part of a broader process as the council works to finalize the 2013-2014 operating budget, in addition to the capital budget. The operating budget, described as a “status quo” spending plan,  includes no general tax increases, assumes slow economic growth, maintains reserves, adds some new economic development programs, and adjusts utility and permit rates to cover higher costs.

Next steps in the budget process include a public hearing at the Nov. 19 council meeting; a Nov. 20 focus group of invited guests to consider a long-term vision for the city; and further discussion of the budget during the Nov. 26 council meeting. The council is slated to adopt the budget at its Dec. 3 meeting.

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