The change to utility rates specifically impacts water, sewer and stormwater for 2023 and is adjusted yearly based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) changes for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area. This annual revision is required by the city municipal code, and as this year’s CPI change is 8.9%, the council voted to lower the CPI rate adjustment to 3%.
The council agenda bill noted that “this is an unusually high CPI that could be an undue burden during current economic times.”
“The CPI is currently running at about 8.9% and this could be a little bit harsh on businesses and citizens living in Arlington,” Public Works Director Jim Kelly said at the meeting. “We took a look at how much money we would need to keep our utilities running and we would be very satisfied with a 3% rate increase applied to the water, sewer and storm utility rates within the city of Arlington.”
The budget amendments total up to roughly $14.7 million, with some being attributed to unforeseen costs. Some of these unplanned expenses were the result of inflation. Many departments included amendments related to fuel — which, according to AAA, saw an average peak of $5.555 per gallon for Washington State back in June of this year.
Another such increase was mentioned by Councilmember Jan Schuette during the November 28 meeting: a price increase for the city’s contract with Snohomish County Jail services. The city had budgeted $450,000 in 2020, but the county increased prices, resulting in the $125,000 amendment in the recently approved budget. According to Finance Director Kristin Garcia, the county rates are based on several factors that include the number of individuals held and the duration of time.
New capital projects accounted for 17% of the total amendments, which included the purchase of land for the Smokey Point Blvd Corridor Project. This involved a “transfer of ARPA money to the Park Improvement Fund,” with the land purchase being listed at $961,625.
A large portion of the budget amendments are similar in nature — the transfer of money from one fund to another. Of the $14.7 million, 32% is a transfer of construction-related sales taxes to the capital facilities fund with another 17% being other “interfund transactions or transfers to reserve funds.” Eighteen percent are carryovers from 2021 projects that were delayed.
Costs related to employee turnover accounted for roughly 4% of the 2022 budget amendments.
“We did have quite a bit of employee turnovers, so we did have increases in overtime to backfill and for background checks,” Garcia said.
Much of the amendments — 36% — are being paid for with the aforementioned construction sales tax. The city attributed APRA, grants, reserves and increases in revenue as the remaining funding sources for the budget amendments.