City Council race gets more competition

July 1, 2011

Candidates file for August primary

Resident Frank Irigon and former City Councilman Gordon Bisset have filed to run for City Council Position 4 in this year’s election.

Gordon Bisset

Frank Irigon

Frank Irigon

Bisset — who served as a member of the council from 2002-2005 — and Irigon will face off against Parks Commission Chair Andrew Shelton in a primary election in August.

The top two finishers will advance to the general election in November.

Councilman Sonny Putter, who holds Position 4, announced in April he would retire from the council at the end of the year.

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Two city employees get promoted

July 1, 2011

The City Council unanimously approved promotions for administrative assistant Sarah Jacobs and accountant Melyssa Lynch.

The position titles for each employee changed last month, and each was given a raise.

The promotions will cost the city $4,200 more this year, but no budget amendments were needed, as the operating budget will be able to absorb the cost increase.

The administrative assistant title changed to executive assistant/human resources analyst. The change came with a 10 percent raise, increasing Jacob’s salary from $52,000 per year to $57,000 per year.

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Issaquah School District puts laid off teachers on recall list

June 3, 2011

With the approval of the state biennial budget, the Renton and Issaquah school districts are in a budget crunch.

Class sizes will not increase in the Issaquah district next year, and although the Renton district has not yet determined whether it will need to increase class sizes, officials said they hope not to.

Laying off teachers is also an option, but Renton district spokesman Randy Matheson said it is one district officials hope to avoid.

“Our intent is not to do either of those things,” Matheson said.

He said district officials will need to discuss the situation with its unionized employees. Alternatives to cutting pay could include reducing the money the district stows away in its emergency savings or leaving open positions unfilled.

“We’ve got some things to come to the table with, but we’ve got to have those discussions,” Matheson said.

The state Legislature approved the budget May 24.

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Police contract cheaper than expected for 2011

June 3, 2011

The city’s police contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office came in under budget for the year.

In late 2010, the sheriff’s office estimated that the contract for 2011 would cost the city about $1.46 million. The final contract cost came in $37,000 under budget.

There will be no changes to the level of service for the year.

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City revenue on the rise, but still below normal

May 6, 2011

The city’s revenue in the first quarter of this year is better than it was last year, which is indicative of a slow economic recovery, at least in the area of development and sales tax revenue, city Finance Director Christine Olson said.

The city has collected $1.45 million in revenue so far this year, which accounts for 24 percent of the $5.95 million budgeted in the general fund for the year. The city has spent $1.44 million so far, which accounts for 23 percent of the $6.38 million budgeted in the general fund for the year.

Olson said $6.38 million is likely higher than what the city will pay out of the general fund for the year, as other city funds will reimburse some expenses.

Sales tax collections for the year are at 19 percent of what was budgeted for the year, which is about 4 percent below what is typically collected in the first quarter. By the end of the year, that could amount to a $31,000 shortfall in sales tax revenue.

Olson said expenses from the city’s contract with the King County Sheriff’s Office could be higher than expected for 2010. When the city’s officers are sick or on vacation, the city must pay to have an additional officer fill in temporarily, and the exact cost of that can often be hard to predict. The city will pay for the 2010 overtime this year.

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Reserve funds, utility money to pay for City Hall move

April 1, 2011

The City Council voted 6-1 at its March 15 meeting to pay for this year’s $250,000 City Hall move with money from its cumulative reserve fund and surface water management fund.

The reserves will take the biggest hit, funding $225,000, and the surface water management fund will cover the remaining $25,000.

The $250,000 will cover remodeling costs in the new building and all moving expenses.

That was one of two funding structures city staff proposed when the City Council voted in February to move City Hall from the Newport Manufacturing building, 13020 Newcastle Way, to the Newcastle Professional Center, 12835 Newcastle Way.

The city’s cumulative reserve fund has $1.5 million for capital purchases or unforeseen operating costs, although the city has never drawn money from the fund to pay for capital purchases, according to city code. Use of the reserves requires a two-thirds majority vote by the City Council.

The surface water management fund typically pays for maintenance of and repairs to the city’s surface water system, which includes drainage ponds. However, the fund is also used to cover overhead costs and salaries for employees who work on surface water projects.

City Manager Rob Wyman said that is the only fund — other than the general fund — that funds staff salaries and overhead, so it can bear some of the cost of the move.

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Rapid Response

April 1, 2011

Newcastle now has 10,380 people. What do you think of the city finally hitting the 10,000 mark?

Great! Does that make us a little closer to gaining our own ZIP code?

— Trina Sooy, Newcastle

I think hitting the 10,000 mark is a cause for celebration! We are a growing city … and that is good news for tax revenues and interest in our city.

— Jackie Foskett, Newcastle

Not much. It’s our quality of life that matters, not a number.

— Lee Strom, Newcastle

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