Local

From the Badger Mountain trail to Gway, here’s what Richland’s 2019 budget has for you

Several high visibility projects are part of Richland’s $269 million spending plan for 2019, as well as a small drop in the city’s property tax rate.

George Washington Way and Swift Boulevard improvements. Badger Mountain Trailhead changes. A bigger landfill. And continuing work on the new Duportail Bridge.

Rising property values and a lively construction scene are good news for property taxpayers.

The city won’t collect the 1 percent increase in property tax collections allowed under law. It is banking the increase to use in the future. That decision, coupled with an 11 percent increase in the total assessed value of the city, means the property tax rate will drop.

The city estimates property owners will pay $2.42 per $1,000 of taxable value, down from $2.67 in 2018., for the city’s share of the bill.

The impact on individual property tax bills will depend on how much the taxable value rose in 2018, if at all.

But all other things being equal, a $200,000 home that paid $534 to the city in 2018 will pay $484 in 2019.

Here are six of the high-profile priorities:

1. Badger Mountain Trailhead

Benton County manages the Badger Mountain Centennial Preserve, but most visitors head up the path from the city-owned trailhead at Queensgate Drive and White Bluffs Street.

Richland will spend $40,000 to replace the steep, basalt steps with a more forgiving surface.

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The steps on the Badger Mountain Trail will get improved next year. Paul T. Erickson/ Tri-City Herald

In related work, the city will fill in some of the missing sections of the 11-mile trail on Little Badger Mountain to improve the connections for hikers to the local ridgelines.

2. New City Hall

The new, three-story, 40,000-square-foot city hall, 625 Swift Blvd.., will be ready for employees to move in this spring. Once the $18.5 million project is complete, the current city hall, 505 Swift Blvd., torn down.

New Richland city hall
A construction workers uses a lift on the exterior of the new three-story, 40,000-square-foot city hall at 625 Swift Blvd. in central Richland. The new building is expected to be ready for employees in the spring. Bob Brawdy Tri-City Herald

The city intends to sell the property, which fronts George Washington Way, for future economic development.

In related developments, the city launched a $300,000 update to Swift corridor to complement the new city hall this month.

The east-west Swift corridor work is designed to improve connections between the city’s core and the Columbia River waterfront.

Rural County Capital Funds administered by Benton County are covering the cost.

3. George Washington Way

The key north-south arterial is scheduled for a $4.3 million facelift between Horn Rapids Road and Guyer Street, just south of Williams Boulevard.

Plans are still being developed, but the project will include new pavement, upgraded traffic signals, improved sidewalks and landscaping and new bicycle lanes in some stretches, especially to the north.

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George Washington Way will get some upgrades in Richland’s 2019 budget. File Tri-City Herald

The city secured funding through a 2017 state grant program to help local governments resurface roads that are part of the National Highway System. The grant means the city won’t have to tap its pavement preservation budget for George Washington Way, freeing up money for work on other streets.

Real estate excise taxes will help cover the cost of the non-pavement work.

4. Duportail Bridge

The $38 million, multi-year project to connect central Richland and Queensgate via Duportail Street began in late 2017 and will wrap up in 2020.

The city will spend about $10 million on the Yakima River bridge project in the coming year as the first phase gives way to the second.

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Construction of Richland’s $38 million Duportail Bridge project continues in 2019 toward a 2020 opening. The span will connect the heart of Richland to neighborhoods west and south of the Yakima River, including the Queensgate district. City fo Richland

Most of the cost is supported by Connecting Washington, the 2015 Legislature’s $16 billion, gas tax-supported transportation infrastructure package.

Phase 2 includes work at the intersection at Duportail Road and the bypass highway, aka Highway 240. Look for more progress on the bridge itself as crews scramble to build the piers and deck during the limited construction season.

Besides creating a new cross-river connection, the Duportail Bridge will carry a new water main to south Richland, providing more reliability to the growing southern end and less vulnerability to seismic disruptions. The $1.1 million water line project will happen in 2019.

The city council — controversially — approved a $20 car tab fee in 2017, saying it needed the money for pavement work and to cover a gap in the budget for the Duportail Bridge. It began collecting the money in 2018.

The capital budget includes $2.26 million for pavement preservation, of which $414,772 comes courtesy the car tab fee. The fee raised an estimated $556,843 this year.

5. Horn Rapids Landfill

Construction on the first phase of a landfill expansion begins in 2019.

The project will provide the city with long-term disposal capacity for the next several decades. The capital budget includes $7.2 million to expand capacity and about $250,000 to update compost processing.

6. Police and Firefighters

The police department added about 13 positions this year because of the consolidation of 911 dispatch services with Pasco and Franklin County in August 2018.

Richland manages the emergency system, which is supported by 911 fees levied on the region.

The department has 141 full-time positions, with nearly 12 funded by the separate voter-approved Public Safety Sales Tax.

The Public Safety Sales Tax will generate an estimated $2 million in 2019 for public safety initiatives, including the Southeast Washington Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

The fire department staffing is unchanged at about 65 positions.

Core government

Fees for services such as garbage collection, water and sewer and electricity, are the city’s single largest source of revenue, accounting for $142 million, or 55 percent of the total.

Sales and property taxes are the second largest source, about $51.4 million or 20 percent.

Sales taxes are a rising source of revenue, with the city collecting about $12 million in 2018, or an average of $1 million per month, a first. It expects to collect $13.2 million in retail sales taxes in 2019.

  • City Administration: $8.4 million (-11.2 percent)

  • Community Development: $2.16 million (+1.4%)

  • Recreation and Library Services: $10.7 million (+5.5 percent)

  • Fire and Emergency Services: $8.2 million (-4 percent)

  • Police: $14.2 million (+1 percent)
  • City Council: $253,573 (+9 percent)
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Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.
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