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Consultant: City should become more dense to get more revenue

SNOHOMISH — A consultant’s final report lists some recommendations for how the city can shape up its economic development to increase its revenue streams, and it diverges a bit from the way the city currently navigates.
In April, the city contracted Golden Rule, LLC and consultant James Palmer to examine the city’s economics and to prepare a plan for expanding the city’s revenue options for the future and inevitable growth.
“The City should decrease its dependency on sales and use tax and increase the percentage from property tax,” the biggest recommendation states in the report. “Revenues streams that are
heavy on sales and use tax are more prone to severe economic downturns during recessionary periods. With growth challenges
due to natural geographic boundaries and constraints of infrastructure costs, the most efficient way to increase property tax collections is to ‘densify’ per the Pilchuck District.”
“I don’t mean increase the amount of property taxes in the sense of individual house taxes going up, but (I mean) the number of properties included in that pool in order
to bring the ratio more in line,” Palmer said. “…you need to be
able to identity those strategic properties to support that.”
Currently, the city’s general fund, for day-to-day operations,
relies mostly on local sales taxes. Over 40 percent of the budget, to be exact.
City finance director Debbie Burton told the City Council a few months ago that relying so much
on the sales tax revenues is something the city needed to be careful about, and Palmer’s reports seem to produce the same caution; with a solution of getting revenue with increased dependency on property tax revenue instead.
Palmer’s report also gives other recommendations such as a Business Retention and Expansion plan (a BRE plan), ensuring zoning and planning support densification, increased tourism, identifying “strategic properties” in the city and support their “highest
and best use,” to plan for
(population) growth in the northern urban growth area (UGA), and plan for limited growth in the southern UGA.
The word “densify,” in this context of the Pilchuck District and planning, is to add or increase the number of people who dwell in a certain urbanized area. For the Pilchuck District, which allows zoning for large apartments, this means more people.
Palmer spoke to the City Council again on Nov. 21.
“One of the main goals was the business retention and expansion,” Palmer said, and he had been working on calling and emailing local businesses for a survey and how to improve communications and concerns between the city and
businesses. Seventy entities, or 10 percent of the survey pool, responded to Palmer’s survey.
As for the other big recommendations, Palmer also thinks the city should hire an economic development manager or specialist to talk with businesses, as well as promote the things Snohomish has
going on that positively impact the local economy, like weddings, agri-tourism, business relations, and new homes. Palmer said the city has a great thing going already with the tourism and all the
offerings of local businesses and activities. The more people come to town and spend money, the more revenue the city could make.
The city’s population has increased, cresting 10,000 people this year.
“You have challenges in your growth, so how do you address this? Palmer said rhetorically.
One of the main things, Palmer said, is to stay in good contact with the businesses and focus on those that are in the top 20 revenue of generators.
A marketing campaign is also being developed by two college interns hired by the city’s economic
development committee back in September. To attract more to Snohomish would mean more revenue, was Palmer’s main driving point.
“Economic development is as unique as every community,” Palmer said. “You have different assets, you have different roles, values. The Economic Development Committee (EDC) is the means by which those values, those assets come through with an economic strategy… This is the time to be proactive, when things are going good. You have a great town here, there’s so much going here it’s just a matter of getting the values of the community to really manifest itself and really solid economic development strategies that are focused on revenues, sustainable revenues and drawing in businesses to sustain the revenues.”
City Council members were positively receptive to Palmer’s report and what to do going forward for going over the strategy with the Economic Development Committee. Palmer has one more meeting with the committee, to figure the next steps and the “blueprint” to offer the new City Council for application.
New Mayor John Kartak will also have a say in who, if anyone, gets hired for the recommended economic development specialist job, since he is the administrative and executive head of City Hall, with the change in the city’s new form of government.

 

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