Mount Rainier’s budget was boosted by $487,000 found unaccounted for in the city’s bank accounts. For a city with an annual budget of about $7 million, it’s good news in an era when other local governments are bracing for steep declines in tax revenue as a result of the pandemic. Now, city officials are weighing a bill that would use the money for staff pay hikes, facility repairs, and economic development programs.
According to interim city manager Latasha Gatling, the city was unaware it had this money. Gatling provided cursory details of the surprise surplus during a Dec. 1, 2020 City Council discussion of a budget amendment to allocate the windfall. Gatling said the surplus was the result of an error in the city financial spreadsheets.
“The way the program was in the system, it somehow did not calculate that money into any line item for anywhere,” said Gatling. “When they cleaned it up and put it where it was supposed to be, we had $487,000 with no line items – no takers.”
The money will be allocated out of the city’s contingency fund.
$100,000 of the funds will be used to help create the city’s hyped “Million Dollar Economic Incentive Fund.” Another $23,325 will be allocated across city departments to give staffers a 3 percent pay increase. Among others, $22,330 will be allocated to help pay for repairs to the city’s public works facility, which was damaged in the Sept. 10, 2020, deluge. $25,000 is to be used to hire a recruiting firm to find a replacement for Gatling.
Before the surplus was found, the city had only 64,000 in its contingency fund, a budget line item for unallocated funds. With an extra $487,000, if the budget amendment passes its next readings, there will still be $370,722 left in the city’s contingency fund.
“I’m happy that we have more money than we thought we did,” said Councilor Luke Chesek, who suggested some of the money could be used to pursue matching grant programs or provide holiday bonuses to staff.