City releases new resident survey

By Stefanie Donahue

A whopping 38 questions comprise the city of Blaine’s new resident survey, which aims to hone funding strategies for dozens of projects and programs intended to bolster the local economy.

The survey was released in conjunction with the city’s Strategic Economic Initiative, which started in 2016. The city contacted Tom Beckwith of La Conner-based Beckwith Consulting to reevaluate the city’s finances, strategically plan for the future and implement various project proposals suggested by local interest groups and community members.

In the early days of the initiative, the city met with 21 interest groups to help guide an economic development plan for Blaine and concluded a series of surveys that focused on the needs of visitors, library users and residents. The resident survey raked in more than 400 responses last October and identified 43 projects and programs that respondents expressed interest.

According to Beckwith and the city, the potential cost for all 43 projects is $41,146,062. If voters approve a bond or levy measure or the city obtains state and federal matching grants, estimates indicate the city could
finance $24,589,633, about 60 percent of the projects.

Steep costs in mind, the city established a Transportation Benefit District to fund street, sidewalk and trail improvement projects through a sales tax. In April, Blaine voters approved the tax measure, which will eventually be used to fund transportation projects and programs identified by residents in the first round of surveys.

In May, the city convened a short-term revenue task force made up of a handful of community stakeholders to advise the city council on how to fund city services. The group advised the council to maintain general fund revenue, avoid a business and occupancy tax and increased utility fees, initiate an aggressive economic development program and enhance the city’s web presence, among other suggestions.

Now, the city is looking to the public for input on how to fund economic development in Blaine. Financing each project is an impossible feat for the city to do alone, so the community will have to step in and take charge, said city manager David Wilbrecht.

The comprehensive survey released online to Blaine residents last week asks for their input on which financing options and methods of achieving their goals are best. Ultimately, the results will influence how the Blaine City Council decides to implement projects and programs identified through the initiative.

“This is really important stuff,” Wilbrecht said. “We’re at the point where we really need your voice.”

Residents should expect to receive notice of the survey in the mail later this week or early next.

To take the survey, visit surveymonkey.com/r/SEIpriorities. More details about Blaine’s strategic economic initiative can be found online at cityofblaine.com.

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