City’s finance department releases video about budget

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The city of Blaine’s finance department recently produced a short video about the city’s budget process and how the city pays for the services it provides.

The video, which is three and a half minutes long, was created by Bellingham-based Shew Design, which was on a $1,500 monthly retainer with the city of Blaine in 2019 for city communications. The video was presented to city councilmembers at their January 13 meeting by city finance director Jeffrey Lazenby.

The video features a voice narrating the following text, accompanied by graphic design visuals to help illustrate the content.

“Ever wonder how your city government pays for the services it provides each day? Just like a family’s budget, the city of Blaine prepares an annual budget to plan out how it will pay for the services it provides. The first step in the budget process involves the city council. Through community input, they establish a vision, goals and priorities that form the framework from which city departments plan for what gets accomplished in the coming year.

City departments present their proposed budgets to the city manager, who works with the finance director to craft a preliminary budget. The preliminary budget is presented to the city council and the community during public meetings. With all of the feedback and input, the city manager and staff make any necessary adjustments and present a revised budget to the city council for approval.

After council adoption, the budget is monitored by staff on a monthly basis, and quarterly reports are presented to the city council. Money in the city’s budget comes from different sources. The way the city is able to spend money is partially determined by the source that money comes from. For instance, money that is used to pay for services such as power, water, sewer and stormwater comes entirely from the rates you pay through your utility bills. That money can only be used for the operations and maintenance and capital improvements of the utility.

General services, such as police, parks and community services are supported by what is known as the general fund. Most general fund money comes from a portion of property taxes. Of the total tax bill paid by a property owner, 15 percent goes to the city. It also comes from a portion of sales taxes. Of the total sales tax paid on a transaction, about 12 percent goes to the city. And it comes from business taxes, such as the business and occupation tax. General fund money also comes from utility taxes paid by both public and private utilities. The rest of the money in the general fund comes from fees, fines and service charges and shared revenue from the state of Washington, such as marijuana and liquor excise taxes.

Street operations and maintenance is supported by special revenue, which is the penny per gallon tax. Street capital improvements are supported by transportation benefit district revenue and state and federal grants. Each year, these revenue sources are supplemented by general fund revenue to provide the needed transportation funding. Combined, this money makes up the city’s overall annual budget, supports the daily operations and funds the services residents depend on each day. For more information, go to cityofblaine.com.”

At the January 13 meeting, city manager Michael Jones said that the city will be sharing the video online. “I think that Jeff and Shew Design did a really nice job on that,” said Jones. “It’s part of our outreach and communications effort and it’ll be really nice to be able to push that out through our website and social media. And those are the kinds of things that hopefully make a difference in people understanding what’s happening at the city.”

Jones said that the video will be presented to city staff and others later this year, to help educate them on the budget process. “We’re working this year on a plan for kind of incorporating that with additional information and presentations from him and potentially others to talk about the budget and budgeting and city expenses with community groups and city departments and others,” said Jones.

Councilmember Alicia Rule praised the video. “It aligns right up with our government transparency goal, so thank you for that,” she said.

To view the video online, visit youtu.be/FDxDiNZYb8A.

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