City Council combs over 2015 budget

November 7, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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The Newcastle City Council began reviewing City Manager Rob Wyman’s 2015 preliminary budget at its second October meeting.

The proposed budget places emphasis on public safety, setting the groundwork for an additional police officer in 2016, and outlines a robust capital investment program.

“I truly feel that the budget presented here provides a great value for the residents of Newcastle while reflecting the appropriate priorities, such as public safety,” Wyman wrote in the budget’s introduction.

The city could spend upward of $2.5 million on transportation projects if the budget is approved as is. In addition to the $550,000 the council commits annually to a pavement overlay program, residents could see projects such as pedestrian improvements to Southeast 73rd Place and the installation of flashing left-turn signals along Coal Creek Parkway in 2015.

There are also initial plans to pursue a $750,000 grant for improvements on Newcastle Golf Club Road. The project would widen and add bike lanes to the road, which would offer continuity after a 2015 city of Bellevue project makes improvements on the roadway just east of Newcastle city limits.

The Newcastle Golf Club Road project would cost about $1 million, and would only move forward if the city gets the grant.

The budget also includes $305,000 for a rock-fall stabilization project. To address concerns that rocks could fall on the roadway along Coal Creek Parkway, the project would stabilize the slope along the east side of Coal Creek Parkway between Newcastle Golf Club Road and Southeast 79th Place.

After funding a full-time detective for the Newcastle police force last year, the 2015 budget sets the stage for adding another patrol officer to the department in 2016.

“Hiring an officer requires paying salary for nine months to the King County Sheriff’s Office in advance of the officer being available for duty,” Wyman explained in the budget document. “This delay is because the county has to send a recruit through the police academy and train them for duty.”

The preliminary 2015 budget doesn’t have any funds for the new officer; instead, the cost — about $138,000 for nine months of pay — is being set aside out of the 2014 surplus.

On the web

Read the city of Newcastle’s preliminary 2015 budget at http://goo.gl/9r8gwR.

“The benefit of this approach is twofold,” Wyman said. “First, it allows us to meet our financial policy of not allowing expenditures to exceed revenues. Secondly, it gives us the rest of 2014 to figure out the appropriate revenue source to pay for the ongoing costs of this additional officer.”

The city, which contracts with the King County Sheriff’s Office, currently has an eight-member police department, and that includes Police Chief Melinda Irvine and the full-time detective. The number of Newcastle patrol officers has not increased since 1999, Wyman said.

The preliminary budget also has line items for a city website redesign, a new snow removal truck, a resident customer-service survey and an Energize Eastside consultant.

The proposed 2015 budget does currently include an allowable 1 percent property tax increase, though the council has elected not to take the increase for the past two years.

The Newcastle City Council will continue to discuss and make changes to the budget at its November meetings, including a final public hearing to be held 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at City Hall. Final budget adoption is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 18.

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