The city of Ridgefield’s budget didn’t shift as much as it has in the past few years, but 2020’s expenses for the city are preparing for another tide of growth.
On Nov. 21, the Ridgefield City Council approved the 2020 budget, which with all funds combined totaled about $18.8 million, a decrease of $5.1 million from the 2019 amended budget. The change was smaller than had been the case in past years, a fact that Ridgefield Finance Director Kirk Johnson said was mostly due to large capital projects completed in 2018, such as the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex that led to a precipitous drop when coming up with this year’s amount.
For 2020, Johnson said there would be a focus on water infrastructure including obtaining water rights, drilling wells and upgrading water lines. The city was anticipating the coming of more growth, though there weren’t as many big-ticket items planned compared to years like 2018.
“Now we’re ramping up for the next phase (of development),” Johnson said.
Though total expenses dropped by millions, general fund expenses are budgeted for about $9.05 million, $900,000 more than the roughly $8.15 million from the 2019 amended budget, according to the 2020 adopted budget document. Prior to approval of the budget, the council also voted in a 1 percent increase to its property tax levy, which was estimated to bring in about $12,500 in more revenue next year.
The biggest increase in funding was due to new construction that exceeded city projections. According to the adopted budget, that construction totaled about $201 million in additional assessed value to the city, which would boost the levy by close to $173,000.
The new construction increase wasn’t anticipated to be as high as it was this year, Johnson said. In 2018, the assessed value from new construction was about $107 million, and Johnson said that single-family residential development was greater than forecasted this year.
Annual increases to existing properties didn’t go up as much as in the past with about a 4.9 percent increase. Overall, the city’s levy rate is anticipated to drop by more than 3 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, which given the average value increase based on a $310,000 home, the tax bill would rise by $2.28 annually.
Some of the biggest relative increases in expenses from last year included judicial costs going up by more than 36 percent. Johnson explained the rise was due to court contracts with the city of Battle Ground, a result of the addition of staff to its court, which would lead to better overall service like quicker court rulings.
The finance department also had a budget increase at close to a third more than last year, going from roughly $457,000 to about $605,000. Johnson said that was due to the addition of a procurement specialist who will oversee activities ranging from contracts and grants to supply purchases.
An increase Human resources’ budget by about a quarter, or from about $208,000 to roughly $260,000, which Johnson explained was done to fund a compensation study early next year ahead of union contract negotiations planned for 2020.
Funding for the parks department had the greatest relative increase at close to 45.6 percent, going from roughly $673,000 to about $979,000. Johnson said that was due to an increase in retail sales tax revenues, with $360,000 going to design and beginning of construction for improvements to Overlook Park. Though nothing was final as of when he spoke to The Reflector, he mentioned the potential for a splash pad feature at the park.
The city wasn’t expecting as many large property transactions in 2020 compared to this year, Johnson said, which led to a budgeted decrease in real estate excise tax revenues from $1.5 million to about $1.16 million, close to a quarter less.
Four additional city-funded staff are included in the 2020 budget. Other than the aforementioned position with the finance department, a police clerk to help free up officers from administrative work was added as well as two positions in community development — a building inspector/code enforcement officer and an associate planner to handle growth.
Johnson felt the 2020 budget process was fairly smooth, starting back in May with a city council retreat before finally having approval Nov. 21.
“I think we were all on board with what the goals were, what we were looking at for maintaining service levels,” Johnson said.