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Groups appeal to Bellevue City Council for more budget support

The Bellevue City Council received feedback for the 2013-2014 budget process, in its third and last public hearing on Monday, Nov. 19.

Twenty-three people testified about the budget, offering both appeals for further funding and gratitude to council members for their continued support. Their lobbying ranged from specific requests about organizations, to broader issues, like investment in low income housing. Still others asked that the council stick to staff recommendations.

Hal Ferris, a member of the City of Bellevue’s planning commission, advocated for housing affordability. He requested full funding for ARCH, saying that rent at a new apartment in downtown Bellevue cost an average of $1,900, a price tag only affordable for certain households. Jill Davies of the Low Income Housing Institute, echoed that concern. She said the city needed to set aside space for lower wage earners and those at risk of homelessness, particularly during a slow economy.

Charles Watts of the Eastside Legal Assistance Program (ELAP), also made a case for funding human services, arguing that ELAP’s work on domestic violence was often the last and only resort for victims. A number of speakers also requested basic city upkeep or infrastructural additions, like a potential traffic circle at a busy intersection near Open Window School.

Overall, residents seemed content with the direction of the budget. City Manager Steve Sarkozy said that in a Bellevuewide survey, 97 percent believe the city is a good place to live. Eighty-two percent think they’re getting their money’s worth with their tax dollars.

Next year’s status quo budget doesn’t include tax increases or service cuts, a change from the downsizing of the last two years, though utility and permit rates will rise slightly to cover cost increases. The general fund, which includes everything from emergency services to parks and transportation, is expected to grow by 4.4 percent in 2013.

Capital and operating budgets for 2013-2014 total $1.29 billion. The council will adopt next year’s budget at its Dec. 3 meeting.

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