Updated financial forecast shows improving finances

October 4, 2012

City staff members presented the Newcastle City Council with an updated six-year financial forecast at the Sept. 18 council meeting.

At the council’s June budget retreat, Finance Director Christine Olson presented a forecast that showed increasing deficits in the city’s general fund, but the new forecast shows a more positive outlook. The difference, she said, is because of more data and information accumulated over the past few months.

“At the budget retreat, I did the same thing I did now, I forecasted, but I only had four months of data,” she said.

The new forecast projects the city will end with a surplus in its general fund at the end of this year after higher-than-expected collections from development revenue.

The city’s general fund for 2013 also seems to be in good shape, according to the forecast, with a projected shortfall of just $60,000, a number that can be easily remedied once the council decides its priorities for the 2013 budget. For comparison, at the retreat the shortfall for 2013 was projected at more than $200,000.

The reason for the improved 2013 outlook is a projected increase in revenue, Olson said. Though, the forecast assumed that the City Council would decide to take an allowable 1 percent increase in property taxes, but that has not been determined yet.

While most of the council members seemed encouraged by the new outlook, Councilmen Bill Erxleben and Gordon Bisset were less satisfied.

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Chamber hosts health and safety fair

October 4, 2012

The Newcastle Chamber of Commerce hosts the first Newcastle Health and Safety Fair from 6-7:30 p.m. Oct. 24 in the commons at Hazelwood Elementary School.

The free event will provide Newcastle residents with information about how to live healthier lifestyles and to help citizens ensure that they are prepared in emergency situations.

Representatives from several local businesses will be on hand to show residents how their services can help improve health and safety.

A representative from Valley Medical Center will be on hand to provide free health screenings, and members of the Newcastle Police Department will be available to meet with local community members. Newcastle Weed Warriors will also be there to warn about noxious weeds that are harmful to people.

There will be healthy snacks, a raffle and several information booths.

Angela Wingate, chairwoman of the Newcastle Chamber of Commerce, said she hopes the event will bring awareness to local health and wellness issues.

“We hope that the community is able to be more aware of what they can do to help improve their lives, and the community as a whole, in being safe and healthy,” she said.

Annual town hall meeting is Oct. 29

October 4, 2012

The city of Newcastle will host its annual town hall meeting from 7-9 p.m. Oct. 29 at The Golf Club at Newcastle.

Residents will be able to provide feedback to city staff and City Council members about issues facing the city for the next year, including the city’s budget.

The event is free and open to the public.

Learn more by calling the city at 649-4444.

City seeks input on community events

October 4, 2012

The city of Newcastle is requesting feedback from residents about its 2012 community events.

In particular, the city is requesting feedback about the city’s Fourth of July celebration, Concerts in the Park and Newcastle Days.

The city asks residents to complete a short, online survey at www.surveymonkey.com/s/PNBH83K.

The survey will run until Oct. 12.

Rapid Response

October 4, 2012

If you could try any profession for a day, what would you choose and why?

 

I think massage therapy. I’m into the healing service professions (hypnotherapist and dental hygienist). Massage supports the mind and body in feeling better and healing.

 

— Jackie Foskett

 

Something like Oprah or Dr. Oz: Presenting helpful, useful, emotionally connecting material to millions in a crowd or TV format! Bring celebrities together to support a worthy cause and get useful information to people who need it!

— Christina Mason

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Letters

October 4, 2012

To merge or not to merge, that is the question

Last month, the City Council discussed potential consolidation with Bellevue. Why now, after 18 years as a city? Simply put, the math has changed, threatening Newcastle’s long-term survival as a standalone city.

I’ll state my bias upfront: My city should have reasonable taxes, good services and facilities, and resources to fund future capital projects. On these criteria, Newcastle’s future compares very unfavorably with Bellevue’s.

The problem: In Washington state, cities are financed primarily with property and sales taxes.  Without either a large commercial tax base generating property and retail sales taxes, or exclusively high-end housing, it is very difficult for a small city to prosper over the long term.

Newcastle’s predicament is not recently discovered. From the city’s inception, knowledgeable observers have warned that once the city exhausted its developable land base and the large city fees associated with development, infrastructure maintenance and personnel costs would rapidly outpace the revenue tax base.

With most of our land base now under development or developed, we have reached the tipping point. Beyond 2013, we face substantial deficits in our general and capital funds that will result in service reductions and eliminate any major new capital projects. Newcastle faces a real risk of becoming a high-tax, low-services city, with negative consequences for our housing prices. Alarmingly, after 2013, the city manager is already proposing that we defer $2.4 million in necessary road maintenance to cover future capital shortfalls.

Given Newcastle’s financial prospects, why would Bellevue consider a consolidation?

The answer: Economies of scale make the math work. Bellevue already provides Newcastle with fire and emergency services, and could easily consolidate the remaining governmental functions at a much lower cost. Under Bellevue’s jurisdiction, Newcastle would maintain its neighborhood character and events, much like Newport Hills does.

Because the situation doesn’t become critical until 2014, the City Council majority believes further public discussion of the issue is not now warranted. I disagree. For a city trying to plan ahead, all options should now be explored and considered. Your voices deserved to be heard and made a part of the decision process.

Let the debate begin.

Bill Erxleben

Newcastle City Council

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Keep Newcastle’s identity here, not in Bellevue

October 4, 2012

As Newcastle gathered to celebrate the city’s 18th year of existence at Newcastle Days on Sept. 8, we were reminded of the exceptional qualities that make the city one of the best in the nation.

The city’s spirit of volunteerism and its unique coal-mining history were on full, glorious display, making us question how anyone could entertain disbanding the city and joining Bellevue.

CNN Money Magazine selected Newcastle among the top 25 best places to live in the nation in 2009 and 2011.

In the magazine’s 2011 article, which ranked the city 18th, the author highlighted the culture of volunteerism.

“Despite serious budget cuts that threatened the city’s summer 2011 events, local businesses and citizens offered time and cash to keep the community’s concerts and fireworks afloat,” the magazine said.

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Breaking from the pack

October 4, 2012

I’m originally from the Midwest, where people travel in packs. An example: When the Seattle family vacationed in Quincy, Ill., a few years ago, Aunt Joan and her extended family took us out for dinner at a pizza and beer joint on a hectic Friday night. When we arrived, she asked a harried waitress for a table for 23. Seriously.

When I questioned the wisdom of that, she said that she wanted to make sure that everyone felt included, even though this meant that we wouldn’t be seated for three hours and that some of my tablemates would actually be in Missouri and I would only be able to converse with them if I had binoculars and a bullhorn.

We’re planning another family trip to Quincy this fall, and with it will come the feeling that I’m part of a never-ending census-taking process, one that I consistently fail as I attempt to slip through the counting bonds and sprint from the pack to freedom. If I leave a room without announcing my intentions, all eyes will follow me even if that room is filled with a roiling mass of cousins and their children and their children’s children. Aunt Joan will call out to ask me where I’m going, and if gone for more than 15 minutes, the alarm will go out: Where’s Pat?

There may have originally been an excellent reason for this mentality. Out on the prairies in the 1800s it would have been critical to keep count, because if Jonathon went out in a howling snowstorm, it made sense to ask “Where are you going?” or “Why isn’t he back yet?” because there are probably some Jonathons who tragically lost their way while heading out to the barn to milk the family cow.

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Police blotter

October 4, 2012

Injured raccoon

An employee at the Animal Hospital of Newport Hills reported that a man became aggressive toward her after he was told the hospital couldn’t treat an injured raccoon on Aug. 30. The man returned the next day, the employee said, and shouted obscenities at her because of the way he felt she treated him.

 

License plates

A resident in the 11300 block of Southeast 77th Place reported that the rear license plate was stolen from his car between Aug. 31 and Sept. 7.

 

Keyed

An unknown suspect keyed the driver’s door of a Ford Escape in the parking lot of the QFC, 6940 Coal Creek Parkway S.E., on Sept. 3. The victim reported the damage was about $500.

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Costume shop opens in Newport Hills

October 4, 2012

The Scarlet Curtain, a gently-used costume super store, will occupy the space vacated by the Red Apple Market in the Newport Hills Shopping Center for the fall season.

The shop sells thousands of costumes and accessories, including typical Halloween costumes and unique theatrical pieces.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays, and will remain at the location until November.

The Scarlet Curtain is at 5606 119th Ave. S.E. in Bellevue.

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