Mayor Raymond Gravelle (2012 – present)
My wife Debra and I started coming to Soap Lake around 2004 and immediately fell in love with the people, the awesome geological beauty and the mysteries of the lake. In 2006 we decided to sell everything, quit our west side corporate jobs and start over in Soap Lake. We have never looked back.
Shortly after getting settled in, I learned of the Soap Lake Garden Club project to build a sundial. Later I became the project manager and brought the project to completion in 2009. I was moved by how involved the community was and the pride everyone showed when it was dedicated. This shared dignity inspired me to run for mayor and further serve our community, to help it realize its fullest potential.
Thank you Soap Lake citizens for giving the City Council and myself an opportunity to usher in a new era to make Soap Lake the best a small town can be. I enjoy being part of the city government and helping to make positive choices for our Soap Lake Family.
2017 Mayor’s State of City Message
Respectfully Submitted By Mayor Raymond Gravelle
This 2017 annual budget was prepared to carry out goals established during the City Council’s budget retreats/workshops, public input and the ongoing direction of the Council and finance office. While overall economic conditions improve, the budget is still conservative in forecasting revenues and expenditures, but does address those items deemed important by both our citizenry and the City Council.
A sense of cautious optimism has influenced the preparation of the FY 2017 budget largely due to a variety of indicators suggesting continued improvement in the local real estate market tempered by ongoing growth in the state and federal economy.
The budget presented herein is strategically focused on enhancing the quality of services delivered to our residents, especially expanded police department services and infrastructure improvements.
Incremental increases in revenue continue to be offset by mandatory expense increases such as insurance, L&I, attorney fees, employee wages and equipment maintenance. The City has been playing catch-up to years of deferred maintenance when the recession mandated serious cut- backs.
The City employs a City Clerk/Treasurer, a Deputy Clerk, an administrative position, a Police Chief, two full time Officers, a police department administrative assistant, one Public Works Supervisor, two utility/street maintenance employees, and one wastewater treatment plant operator. Eleven full time employees total.
Highlights of 2016 / 2017 budget:
- Purchase of a new police vehicle- 2017 Charger fully equipped, purchased with a USDA grant/loan plus City match. This is the first new car the police department has had in many years.
- Replaced very old dump truck with newer one. $32,500.
- Replaced very old vacuum truck (cleans sewer lines) with a newer jet/vac truck. $30,000.
- Updated city hall computers, installed central server for general city business and one dedicated to police department. This upgrade includes making wireless connectivity available to staff and citizens around city hall.
- Repair and annual maintenance contract for one water tank. $300,000. Also, setting aside $100,000 annually for 10-year replacement of bolted water tank.
- Allocating $50,000 in the sewer fund to have available for anticipated grant matches.
- Zoning Code adopted allowing Cottage House developments. The goal is to increase city revenues and population by allowing multiple dwellings on a single parcel.
Also noteworthy is the changing of ownership of Soap Lake’s two largest hotels to a single investor. This investor is committed to significant property improvements and is working closely with the City to align with its long-range plans.
City of Soap Lake continues to experience an increase in tourism, our primary economic driver. Tourism Tax revenues are up 27% in the past five years and reserves (beginning balances) up 133% for same period. The number of events held in the City has declined slightly from a high of 19 events in 2014. Keeping events returning each year takes a tremendous effort on the part of the Chamber of Commerce, many volunteers and City staff and should rank among the highest priorities.
The General Fund is responsible for paying the day to day bills: law enforcement, administration, planning, library, Senior Center expenses, and parks. Revenue for the past five years (2012- 2016) is up 41.5% while expenses have increased by 59.2%. Increases are primarily in law enforcement and park maintenance. Much of this increase is a result of raising city employee wages to be more competitive. In years, past, wage increases have been minimal. While beginning balances during the same time period (reserves) have increased 307% from $93,129.82 to $379,782.15, the 2017 budget projects a 19% decrease in the beginning balance to $308,000.
Why the decrease?
- The City Council decided to overestimate expenses ($948,624.77 vs 2016’s $748,081) to reduce number of budget amendments (adjustments) throughout the year;
- Revenues are more conservatively projected at $657,921.64 vs. 2016’s $651,359.00;
- City Council, as promised with the passing of the Fire District 7 Annexation, approved a decrease in the City of Soap Lake portion of property taxes of $40,000. This amount is equal to 27% of the property tax revenue normally received by the city.
- Budget increases were made in law enforcement, parks, legal services and salaries.
Even though the Police Department makes up 52% of the City’s annual budget, the overall increase from 2016 to 2017 for the Police Department is $4,015.29. Even with this small of an increase, the city is still able to hire a full-time administrative assistant and a part-time animal control/code enforcement officer for the Police Department.
Contracting for garbage pickup services is proving to be a big money saver. This budget sets aside money to start grading and placing new gravel in all the City’s alley ways.
The City of Soap Lake Parks & Recreation Committee has worked diligently to secure funding for city park improvements and revitalization. Fiscal Year 2016 saw a significant influx of grant funds for these projects. Park Improvement Grants from Lauzier Foundation and Columbia Basin Foundation enabled the revitalization of Elder-Veteran Park with new tree plantings, restroom, and amenities. The revitalization plan is projected to continue until spring of 2017 with the development of a soccer and baseball field. The committee continues to work with state and local agencies to secure additional funding for the lake front parks.
A Community Development Block Grant was received in 2016 by the city for a new sewer plan. Following through on the recommendations of this new plan, the City of Soap Lake has applied for, and tentatively received, a $750,000 grant for replacement of sewer lines from the Community Development Block Grant program for 2017.
Fiscal Year 2017 will also see a plan for redesigning and upgrading Division Street. A two year Transportation Improvement Board grant in the amount of $815,000 has been awarded to City of Soap Lake for planning and construction/upgrading of Division Street between Hwy. 28 and 7th Ave.
Salary increases are now based on Performance Review merit increases instead of cost of living increases. Performance reviews were implemented late in 2015 for the first time in the City’s history. Overall employee performance is above average.
Soap Lake is continuing to transform itself from a fading, declining rural town into a vibrant, attractive tourist community featuring healing, the arts and an improved quality of life. Through visioning, citizen input, sound financial practices and growth, Soap Lake’s future is looking brighter than it has in years.
Raymond Gravelle, Mayor
City of Soap Lake
You can download a copy of this 2017 Budget Message by clicking or right-clicking link to save to your computer: