It projects no water or sewer rate increases, adding police, fire positions 

LYNDEN ­— On Oct. 21 Mayor Scott Korthuis presented a preliminary 2020 city budget that holds the line on water and sewer rates, pays down $4.5 million on city debt, and includes one new position each in the fire and police departments.

Korthuis read a budget message to City Council members as Finance Director Anthony Burrows also handed out about 80 pages of details.

The total city budget for next year is projected at $82.6 million, down about 2.5 percent from this year, with the General Fund portion covering most departments and services pegged at $15.8 million, up about 6.7 percent. 

It is now up to the council to sift through the budget and pass its own version by December.

Korthuis emphasized that Lynden is in a position of “current financial strength and positive revenue outlook” that enables him to propose the various projects with General Fund money in 2020.

“Revenue continues to steadily increase, driven by strength in the local economy, including robust downtown businesses, ongoing construction and community development,” Korthuis wrote.

He said the city needs to be diligent in meeting all expenses and maintaining “a conservative fiscal approach.”

These are key points of the General Fund preliminary budget:

  • The city has a cash reserve of $2.3 million, of which about $800,000 is set aside for “unforeseen contingencies.”
  • Roadway spending includes $300,000 for Line Road pedestrian safety and $105,000 for Seventh Street reconstruction engineering. 
  • Information systems across the city will get an infusion of nearly $100,000 in the form of additional servers, malware protection, and laptop and work station upgrades.
  • The city continues to support five community organizations — the senior center, musuem, library, YMCA and food bank  —with a total of $327,000 amongst them. Also, about $132,000 will go to the Downtown Business Association and Lynden Chamber of Commerce to boost trade and tourism.
  • A 3.25 percent cost-of-living bump is budgeted for non-represented city employees (department heads), reflecting the exact same increase negotiated with union employees.
  • The Police Department will hire one more officer, to 17 in all, and the strength of force means promotions to positions of  lieutenant, sergeant and corporal. Also for police, $179,000 will be spent for three new police vehicles, and $65,000 in all will go toward additional ammunition, training and interview room audiovisual equipment.
  • The Fire Department will add the position of assistant chief. In discussion with the council, it was clarified that screening for this position has already started, but actual hiring will be contingent on final budget approval and will not happen until 2020.
  • Also, $450,000 is allocated from utility tax hydrant revenues as down payment on a fire station remodel as well as for Life Pak defibrillators and thermal imaging equipment.

These are aspects of the mayor’s budget in regard to utilities:

  • No increase in water rates in 2020, for a third straight year. Rates had climbed steadily from 2010 to 2017 to reach a point of paying for the new water treatment plant that came on line in 2015.
  • Likewise, ratepayers get a break on sewer, no rate increase in 2020, because revenues there also have been strong. A new sewer lift station will be built at Guide Meridian Road for $1.45 million.
  • The stormwater fund, although relatively small, will more than double from $2.1 million to $4.4 million next year, and so a 10 percent rate increase is projected. Lynden will receive a state Department of Ecology grant to cover some costs, Korthuis notes.
  • For now, $1,288,000 is budgeted for Pepin Creek Subarea right-of-way and design work in 2020, although city officials have noted in the past that not all of what is budgeted for this planning area each year actually gets spent. The mayor says that all revenue sources for Pepin Creek are either low-interest loans or grants.