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Groups seek more budget support from Bellevue City Council

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 on 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 Bellevue’s planning commission, advocated for housing affordability. He requested full funding for ARCH, saying that rent at a new apartment in downtown Bellevue costs 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), testified 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.

The council did add $165,800 for arts, tourism and work related to the city’s electrical system.

The council also approved $50,800 more in the operating budget for Visit Bellevue Washington, which markets the city as a tourism and visitor destination, and $60,000 to work with Puget Sound Energy to ensure the city continues to have adequate and reliable power to meet current and future needs.

Following a recommendation from the Arts Commission, the council added $20,000 for the city’s arts program, restoring the program’s budget to the $110,000 annual allocation made before recession-related budget cuts in the current biennium.

The council also authorized $35,000 to place marble statues sent from sister city Hualien at City Hall for display. The gifts have been in storage since they were received in 2010.

The council is scheduled to adopt the operating budget, as well as the 2013-2019 capital budget, on Monday, Dec. 3.

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