Bright spots amid Maple Valley bleak financial future

While the long-term financial concerns for the city of Maple Valley remain unchanged, city Finance Director Shawn Hunstock shared some positive short term news with the City Council Monday night.

“I’ve never seen this before,” Hunstock told the council when he reached the line item for Lake Wilderness Golf Course in his report — a line that for the first time wasn’t in the red. “We’re currently projecting a surplus for the golf course.”

The golf course is projected to have a surplus of $49,022.

City Manager David Johnston attributed the positive swing to the good golfing weather this spring.

Hunstock advised caution in expectations of the golf course.

“I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on that,” he said.

Also on a positive note, higher than expected sales tax revenue and increased permit activity put the city revenues slightly ahead of budget.

On the broader forecast for the year, Hunstock reported higher than anticipated revenues, cutbacks and expenditure savings, meaning the year end deficit for the general fund now projects to be smaller. In the budget for 2014, which was approved in December, the 2014 General Fund Deficit was estimated to be $600,385. About $100,000 was added to that in the first quarter, but at the end of the second quarter, due to the previously listed factors, the projected deficit shrank to $437,064.

Continuing issues for the city include the cost of courts and jails services, as well as revenue sources in the long term.

The city is currently in the second year of a two-year contract with the city of Kent for both services, both of which saw a substantial increase in cost under the contract. The city is currently in the process of reviewing its options for both courts and jail services.

The cost of the contract with Kent caught the city staff and council by surprise last year, far exceeding what had been budgeted for both costs. As a result, the budget for both items was increased this year, and Hunstock reported, the court costs are currently about 6 percent under budget.

“But that’s not necessarily good news,” Hunstock cautioned the council. “It’s 6 percent of a much higher number than we’ve had in the past.”

The somber news relates to what some have termed the city’s ‘fiscal cliff’ — where the city’s expenses outpace growth and when the city will have less than is advisable in reserves. The city keeps a graph that shows the general fund as a percentage of fund balance. That essentially means there is a line showing how much the city wants and needs to keep in reserve for good financial practices, as the city’s general fund — which has largely been funded by revenues from residential development — decreases as the city approaches build out. The current projection is the two lines will cross sometime in the later part of 2017.

“What’s primarily paying for our services today is growth of years past,” Johnston said.


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