City needs a revenue bump

The Olympia City Council may be light on experience, but Mayor Stephen Buxbaum is asking his relatively young council to carry an extraordinarily heavy load for the remainder of 2012.

Before the end of this year, the council must conclude its Shoreline Master Program, negotiate a final agreement with the Family Support Center for the Smith Building, monitor the charter given to the planning commission for development of a revised comprehensive plan, create a plan for redevelopment of the isthmus properties, finish addressing a handful of enhancement and regulatory initiatives directed at the downtown core and, last but not least, convince voters to vote in favor of its sales tax increase to fund public safety on the general election ballot.

It sounds easy, when you say it quickly, but most of those tasks also involve assorted supporting projects, especially the ones aimed at investing in downtown. City Manager Steve Hall says the council and staff have taken on more than he’s experienced in his 22 years on the job.

The fall ballot measure – officially titled Proposition No. 1 – seeks to raise the local sales and use tax by 0.1 percent to help close the city’s $2.4 million budget gap. It’s a modest request on taxpayers to support the city’s criminal justice system in a challenging economy.

The council acknowledges the small hike won’t cure all the city’s financial ills, but it patches up the public safety piece, saving significant cuts in the police force, for example.

Hall will be presenting the council with a 2013 budget later this month that is expected to show the cuts in every city department that will be required if the tax measure does not pass. Voters need to see specifically what staff and services they would be saving with a vote for the tax increase.

Failure to pass the proposition could also affect the city’s ability to address some of its other projects, particularly those infrastructure items requiring capital investment.