Unsustainable budgets put what we love about Sammamish at risk.
The Council raised property taxes 12% since 2020. Yet Josh Amato’s opponent voted to create a $5 million deficit that eats through all our savings and makes Sammamish insolvent in 4 years. (Source: City of Sammamish 2023-2024 Biennal Budget. Page 5 calls out the deficit and page 252 shows the financial trend toward insolvency.)
Josh Amato will put Sammamish on a sustainable financial path by writing a responsible budget that upholds our shared values.
- Implement a Priority-Based Budget
- Review the budget line-by-line
- Protect the “Rainy Day” Fund
“I’m asking for your vote so I can write a balanced, sustainable budget that provides essential services, protects our most vulnerable, and maintains the safe, quiet, and natural environment that makes Sammamish such a great place to live.” — Josh Amato
At the bottom of this page, Josh outlines his plan to balance the budget.
How Sammamish found itself in this budget mess
|January 15, 2016||City Council is presented a long-range forecast showing expenses will exceed revenues shortly after 2020. (Source)|
|November 7, 2017||Pam Stuart was elected with full knowledge of the impending fiscal challenges but downplayed the problem saying, “I believe our current financial state is solid at this point in time.” (Source)|
|November 6, 2018||City Council voted against a 1% property tax increase to cover new spending. (Source)|
|November 19, 2019||City Council voted against a 1% property tax increase to cover new spending. (Source)|
|November 24, 2020||Josh writes an op-ed about the impending financial disaster. (Source)|
|November 24, 2020||City Council votes to increase property taxes by 6% and implement a staff headcount freeze. Pam Stuart voted against the headcount freeze. (Source)|
|October 12, 2021||City Council received a briefing from a financial consultant demonstrating the impending deficit. (Source)|
|November 16, 2021||City Council raises property taxes by 4.8% to head off impending deficit point. (Source)|
|June 29, 2022||City Council receives an additional briefing from a financial consultant demonstrating, once again, the dire financial situation the city is in. (Source)|
|November 15, 2022||City Council and Councilmember Pam Stuart voted to increase property taxes by 1%, remove the headcount cap, and add significant expenses to the operating budget. This created a $5 million deficit that was projected to consume all our savings and drive Sammamish to insolvency by the middle of 2027. (Source)|
Josh Amato’s plan to fix the Sammamish budget
This is a big problem, but not an unsolvable one. We need leaders on the council willing to do hard work and ask tough questions. That’s something Josh is prepared to do.
Implement a Priority-Based Budget
The City Council must identify the City’s spending priorities and adequately fund those first. For Josh, the first three priorities are:
- Public safety (police, fire, and emergency management)
- Roads & infrastructure
- Senior services & youth mental health
Implementing a priority-based budget means our top priorities get our first dollar, not our last dime. Josh will oppose any attempt that pays for lower-priority items first and asks voters for higher taxes to fund vital public services, such as police and fire.
Create a Performance-Based Budget
You deserve to have your tax dollars spent wisely and get the intended results. Josh will ensure expenses are tracked to outcomes so we know when programs are working and deserve continued funding, falling behind and need reform, or failing and must be cut.
We do not have unlimited tax revenue and cannot afford to waste any of it. Josh will hold city departments and contractors accountable for spending and program results.
Establish Asset Management
We all know that every asset the city owns will need to be replaced at some point. We must budget for that replacement during the asset’s lifetime so it’s not an unexpected expense. This will be a painful exercise in the short term because it will make clear much sooner that we have less money to spend. However, in the long term, planning for asset replacement will put the city on solid financial footing.
Line-by-Line Budget Review
One of the City Council’s primary roles is to pass a budget. Josh will take that responsibility seriously by reviewing every proposed expense. In previous years, very little work was done to ensure every expense was necessary or that programs were getting their intended results. Josh will demand that all expenses are fully itemized and essential.
Bond Capital Projects
The City Council has a history of borrowing from Operating Funds to pay for Capital Expenses and bragging about not having any debt. However, lack of bonding comes at a steep price. Using Operating Funds to pay for Capital Expenses has brought the insolvency date closer, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in incomplete Capital Projects. Josh will advocate for responsibly bonding Capital Projects so we can even out expenditures and finally begin to make progress on outstanding projects.
Protect the “Rainy Day” Fund
The city must maintain a robust emergency fund to ensure smooth city operations in the event of an emergency. Josh will always vote to keep this fund strong and push back against any attempt to use the money for anything other than an emergency.
Tax Increases as a Last Resort
Tax increases should only be on the table after implementing the policy changes outlined above. Raising taxes to cover the lack of fiscal discipline is inappropriate. Josh can’t promise he won’t raise taxes, but he’ll do everything he can first before asking for more of your hard-earned money.