The city of Bellevue finalized its fiscal 2020 budget process Monday night after receiving no comments from the public. In a room devoid of all but one Bellevue resident not employed by the city, council members unanimously voted to waive the three readings of the budget, and to pass the resolution appropriating the funds.
The budget of $4,015,052 is the result of a four-month process that began in May when each department began presenting its proposed budget. The workshops concluded on July 22 after a three-hour council meeting that forced council members to make deep cuts into nearly every department’s budget.
The result was a balanced budget, but both the mayor and council members expressed concerns that the bare-bones budget left the city further behind in is ability to provide services to its residents. The public hearing Monday was an opportunity for citizens to share their thoughts on department spending, but as Mayor Ned Burns predicted, no one showed up.
In an interview last week, Burns and City Council President Kathryn Goldman said the lack of citizen input makes it difficult for the city to know which direction to go in. They both recognized that in the past, the city had not always taken public input seriously.
Most notably, the Strahorn development proposed for Slaughterhouse Canyon has caused deep strife not only among citizens but council members as well, with some pushing to move forward and others hoping for deeper clarification from the developer before moving forward. On that particular issue, Goldman said, the process moving forward would be transparent and open, encouraging citizens to “show up early and show up often,” when it comes to public hearing opportunities.
“We want it to serve Bellevue,” she said. “Extensive public comment will be taken.”
The next step in the development is a public hearing to take comment on a planned-unit development application and a large-block plat that delineates how the subdivision will be divided.
Burns, who is still in his first year as mayor, said he was disappointed to not get more feedback on the budget this year.
“The budget is the single most important thing we do each year,” he said.
He called it “distressing” to not see members of the public in the audience during the budget hearings.
Moving forward, the city is taking these matters to the citizens, rather than expecting them to come to meetings every other week. Council members are planning to have a booth at the Labor Day festivities at Memorial Park this year to get public feedback on which projects the city should be centering its attentions on.
A goal-planning session at Monday’s meeting included talk of an online survey and a town hall meeting in the fall to further connect with citizens.