Success expected by financial office
LYNDEN — After a strong year in 2018, revenue generated by sales tax in Lynden continues to rise. So far this year, monthly revenue from sales tax has been higher than the year before for all but one month, according to records from the city’s finance department.
Sales tax revenue through July of this year has brought in a total $1,534,671, nearly $15,000 beyond the budgeted amount by July of $1,519,800. Lynden Mayor Scott Korthuis said although sales taxes are doing well, this success is what the financial office expected.
“People say tax numbers are strong, but we’re on track for what we’ve budgeted,” Korthuis said. “We’re trying to budget in a way that accurately predicts our income, so we can then start to spend knowing that money is coming.”
Part of the reason sales tax revenue has been strong over the past years is profit made from online purchases delivered to Lynden, for which the city receives sales tax revenue, Korthuis added.
City Financial Director Anthony Burrows said the city is doing well despite a lack of large city projects that have brought in high revenues in years past, such as the construction of two new public schools in Lynden that were credited for boosting the local economy in 2017.
“I’m pleased to see those numbers coming in,” Burrows said. “It’s giving us a picture of the underlying strength of the local economy.”
Currently the city has around $15.2 million on reserve, which Burrows said is a good cushion for the city to “absorb any economic shocks.” He said the city has around 20 percent of the reserve available in cash, or around $3 million.
Seventy-five percent of the city’s total predicted income for 2019 has been budgeted toward paying city employee salaries and benefits, and there’s not much room for hiring more personnel beyond hires from earlier this year, Kortuhis said. Requests have come up for more employees in departments such as the Lynden police, which struggled with being understaffed until this spring when it finally reached a full complement of 16 officers.
According to city financial records, in 2018 the city paid more than half a million dollars in overtime salaries to city employees.
Burrows added that although the city is technically bringing in more than it budgeted for, much of the money is counted on for other funding than personnel hiring.
“The funds that we have are accounted for,” Burrows said. “It’s not that the money isn’t there, it’s a matter of priorities.”
Korthuis said he is planning to increase the city’s sales tax budget of about $2.8 million by close to 3 percent in 2020 to account for larger economic changes.
August and the upcoming months are predicted to be economically strong for Lynden, especially with the tourism predicted to be drawn in by the fair, according to Burrows.
“With the way things are holding together in the local economy, there’s no reason to doubt that August will be a solid month to keep us on track,” Burrows said.