Budget statements from LFP council candidates Hammond and Kassover

Saturday, October 10, 2015

By Evan Smith

Lake Forest Park City Council candidates David Hammond and Phillippa Kassover recently sent statements about what they think are the most important factors in considering a city budget.

The two are running in the Nov. 3 general election for the council position that Jeff Johnson is giving up to run for mayor.

Here are Hammond’s and Kassover’s statements in the order that their names will appear on the November ballot and in the voters’ pamphlet.

Lake Forest Park City Council, Position 4

David Hammond

I'd like to see budget decisions made more accessible to the public. I've read the city's forecast, which shows us running a deficit beginning next year. We cannot provide the same level of policing, maintenance and environmental quality without raising revenue. The city council is going to have to make difficult decisions. To do this in a transparent manner, I’d break the budget down into packages with a core service level that we absolutely must do, then provide detailed options where we can add or reduce service. I’d develop alternative budget packages, for example:

· Cut service and keep tax the same;

· Keep service levels the same and raise taxes;

· Expand law enforcement, street maintenance and environmental quality efforts and raise taxes more.

These packages should have cost details, i.e., what it would cost the average taxpayer, and what they would buy. I've spoken to hundreds of citizens and they are undecided about which option they prefer, but they are unanimous that they want to know exactly what their taxes would buy if they had to vote on an increase. Although I like to hear public input at public meetings, they are not for everyone, so I think we should do more to reach out. The city newsletter could lay out these options and ask for feedback. I think many residents would like to participate by email. If the council develops budget alternatives early in 2016, they’ll have time for public debate and we’ll find out what most citizens want.

Phillippa Kassover

LFP made significant spending cuts, including staff benefits, in response to the 2007-8 drop in property values and tax revenues. Since then our city council has been frugal, limited annual property tax increases to the state-mandated 1 percent, with no increase at all some years, and found other funding to help make needed capital improvements — but we still face a structural deficit in city budgets.

While we are all hopeful that our economy will continue to improve, there remain signs of weakness, especially the declining earning power of middle-class families. Inflation is greater than 1 percent and our state tax structure is the most regressive and unfair in the nation.

For these reasons, I believe our city must continue wise and thoughtful budgeting. We must maintain an adequate contingency fund for future emergencies, respect and treat our city workers and police officers fairly, and listen closely to residents to identify needed improvements to keep our city a great place to live.

As a Senior Director at UW during the downturn, I had to radically reform strategic goals and budgets to meet the new fiscal reality. As a city council member, I will bring my experience making tough decisions, implementing creative solutions, and building strong partnerships with local, state and federal funding agencies, to ensure a financially sound future for our city. I will also use my years of experience as a communications professional to make sure we hear your opinions on priorities for important investments in our future well-being.


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