Why am I running for Council?
With a looming financial crisis for the first time in our city’s history, it is imperative we have councilmembers that carefully select opportunities that have positive impacts on improving traffic, sustaining our infrastructure, and preserving our environment. I am the only Candidate with proven financial skills and experience to effectively address Sammamish's emerging fiscal challenges. Community leaders and citizens have encouraged me to run for Council to help the city navigate through this critical period. I am answering a call for action to achieve our community goals while protecting the citizens from unnecessary tax burdens due to poor planning or reaching a point where we have to indefinitely defer maintenance of our city.
But our city leadership says we are financially healthy
If you manage with a biennial budget like our city does, the near-term outlook is deceptively positive and you often overlook the risks on the horizon. Costs escalate, investments in property often cost more to maintain than to purchase, economic variables are not factored in, and unanticipated emergent needs may surface.
Here are some clear indicators of Sammamish's financial risk:
We are approaching a crossover point where expenses exceed revenues (this is operating portion of our budget only)
Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) costs are escalating with severe funding challenges
The TIP does not recognize operating fund transfers beginning in 2021 (anticipated point we no longer have operating surpluses to assist in capital project funding)
Our community is maturing and will need to find funding sources to adequately maintain our infrastructure
The time is now to set a financial foundation necessary to work key priorities.
Traffic is our Greatest challenge
Enhancing and updating roads within the city are needed as infrastructure continues to lag behind growth. In addition to our city's efforts, regional cooperation is necessary to optimize our traffic improvements.
The Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) is a planning document that includes $165M of potential projects and capital improvement programs over a 6-year period. These costs continue to escalate and become less affordable. To qualify for grant funds, the project must be listed on the TIP.
The projects listed must be prioritized before funding is identified:
Projects with strings attached (grant money) must be validated that they are high priorities
Concurrency projects are only intended to neutralize the impact of development, not improve the situation. Internal projects must be carefully selected to ensure the investment justifies the expected gain. A greater investment in regional solutions may have the greatest impact. The bottom line is to choose carefully so we don't squander resources that could have been put to better use.
Caring for our environment is imperative as we manage future growth. We must work together with stakeholders to achieve innovative community design options to protect and improve the green character of Sammamish. City land acquisition strategies should prioritize investments protecting the tree canopy, sensitive areas, and habitats.
Lake Sammamish is the gateway to many rivers and lakes. The Kokanee salmon live in fresh water and don’t migrate to salt water value this lake. Laughing Jacobs is a key tributary to Lake Sammamish carrying Kokanee, Chinook, Coho, and Cutthroat trout. Pine Lake and Beaver lakes are habitats for Largemouth bass, rainbow trout, yellow perch, and Brown bullhead. These species are so valuable to our region and rely on us to protect their ecosystem.
I am very concerned about protecting wetlands and streams. They are critical to balance the ecosystem and sustain habit. Wetlands recharge groundwater supplies and trap flood waters. They also filter and recharge drinking water and provide habitat for diverse wildlife populations. Streams absorb and gradually releases nutrients, organic matter, and stream flow downstream. These headwaters support fish and wildlife species. Like wetlands, they help preserve water quality and lessen the impacts of flooding.
Preserving trees is so important to our city. They have many valuable benefits such as supporting clean air, clean water, flood and erosion control, and protecting wildlife habitats. Interestingly it has several economic benefits. The Christian Science Monitor reports that people are attracted to homes and businesses near trees. For example, property values are 7 percent to 25 percent higher for houses surrounded by trees. Shoppers spend up to 13 percent more at stores near green landscapes. Preserving our trees is essential for maintaining the green character of Sammamish.
It would be irresponsible to consider new funding sources without first performing a careful examination and planning of the long-term priorities for the city. Once the priorities are identified, we need to review the basis of estimate for each major project to ensure the result is based on current sound assumptions and accurately reflects project scope. Also, each service should be evaluated to assess the required level of service. Both purchase cost and long-term maintenance costs must be factored into the analysis. Through this exercise, if a funding shortage is identified, the conversation shifts to tax increases or cost reductions or a combination of both.
I am opposed to the B&O tax imposed on business gross receipts. The last thing we want is to make it more difficult to sustain our existing businesses and deter new business. Sales tax increases need to be at or below neighboring cities or they too may impact retail business. Utility taxes or increases to Property Tax rates should be considered as a last resort because they like Sales Tax tend to become permanent in nature and incrementally increased over time for expediency. Bond issuances to fund emerging needs for infrastructure best link taxation with public priorities and are not permanent in nature and easily manipulated for increased rates.