Candidate Katherine Ross submitted answers to four questions we posed to her. Below are her unedited responses. After the Q&A you will find her bio (also unedited) and links to her website for additional information.
The summer primary was held on August 3rd. Ballots will be mailed out on October 13th and November 2nd will be the general election.
Question 1: What are your qualifications to be the Mayor of Snoqualmie and how will you be different from the current Mayor?
Katherine: During my 4.5 years on City Council, I have served on all four council committees. I currently chair Community Development, and in the past was Chair of Public Safety, and a committee member on both Finance & Administration and Parks & Public Works. My education includes an MBA, BS in Business Administration and AWC Certificate of Municipal Leadership.
I have developed relationships working with regional leaders as our city’s representative to the Sound Cities Association Public Issues Committee and by attending Snoqualmie Valley Government Association meetings. I have been endorsed by the mayors from Snoqualmie, North Bend, Carnation, Duvall, and Issaquah. I have met personally with our state legislators to discuss policies and funding that’s important to Snoqualmie, such as resurfacing the Snoqualmie Parkway and improving the I-90/SR-18 interchange.
I have earned the confidence of our city staff by listening to their ideas and have developed a collaborative working relationship. I have been endorsed by both the Police and Firefighters unions.
As a 17-year resident of Snoqualmie, I have been very active in our community. During this time, I volunteered in our schools, Snoqualmie city committees including Human Services Committee and was President of Snoqualmie Library Board, and non-profit organizations such as Encompass Board President.
As a business professional, I worked for Fortune 500 Companies for close to 20 years. As an internal operations auditor, I took a business approach to streamlining departmental processes, evaluating, and implementing internal controls. As a purchasing manager, I negotiated, implemented, and monitored long-term, multi-million-dollar supply contracts; prepared and managed operating and capital budgets; and supervised purchasing and materials departments. I will apply my extensive experience to fiscal accountability, strategic planning, and implementing policies that benefit our community.
My Snoqualmie council member experience, professional career, education, community service, and relationships with our regional, local leaders and city staff have prepared me to be an effective Mayor for the City of Snoqualmie.
Mayor Larson has been the mayor for the past 16 years and has many significant accomplishments such as guiding our community through the complex completion of the Snoqualmie Ridge master planned community, revitalization of the historic downtown,on-going reconstruction of city streets and utilities, and construction of a community center and city hall, while preserving our heritage, culture, and majestic beauty of Snoqualmie.
As your new mayor, I will continue to build on our successes and implement new ideas and opportunities. The city has grown from a small town of 2,100 to a population of over 14,000. City leaders and staff must balance the preservation of historic character and beautiful natural scenery with the needs and expectations of a larger population. Using my business background, I will work with our city staff to review the existing functions and services we provide, evaluate potential new services, and ensure there is adequate staffing, resources, and equipment to continue providing quality levels of service we expect from our city.
I will also enhance public engagement opportunities for residents to contribute more to decision making for Snoqualmie. Because of COVID, we have been using online platforms for public meetings. We should continue to utilize online platforms, which effectively offers more options for residents to engage.
As your Mayor, I will continue working with our residents, businesses, city staff, and regional leaders to ensure Snoqualmie continues as one of the safest, most livable cities in the state.
Question 2: As mayor how do you specifically plan to fix the revenue shortfall created by the loss of the Salish expansion?
Katherine: This past year, our general operating revenues were impacted by COVID due to loss of sales tax revenues from businesses and tourism and future forecasted revenues were impacted due to the loss of the Salish expansion. The 2021 – 2022 biennial budget was adjusted by cutting expenses through a hiring freeze, consolidating positions, reducing services, and pausing some capital projects. The City recently received federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds which will be used to fill open positions and help cover operating reductions.
The City of Snoqualmie experiences a 3% inflationary increase annually and needs up to $240,000 of new revenues each year to sustain the services that residents enjoy. Options to cover inflationary increases include property taxes, which represent over 40% of revenues. These are limited to levy increases of 1% per year, which amounts to about $80,000 in additional revenues.
A potential tax enhancement would help offset inflationary costs. On the November 2021 ballot there will be a 0.2% Transportation Benefit District (TBD) sales tax that eliminates the $40 car-tab fee and replaces it with a sales tax. The new sales tax rate would remain lower than North Bend, Bellevue, Issaquah, Redmond, and Seattle. The benefit would be that tourists visiting our city would share in road improvement expenditures.
A long-term goal is to work with our legislators to free up sales tax that the state keeps. For instance, of our current 8.7% sales tax rate, the city receives .95%, and the state keeps 6.5%.
My goal is to expand tourism and economic development to generate additional revenues. This could help reduce the gap created by annual inflationary pressures on our budget.
Question 3: The city’s general fund is dependent on property taxes so what is your plan to bring in new business to increase sales and business tax revenue?
Katherine: As your Mayor, I recognize the importance of diversifying our tax base and being less reliant on homeowners’ property taxes. Property taxes make up over 40% and sales taxes around 20% of city revenues. There are opportunities to increase revenues through tourism, retail, services, and online shopping.
Due to COVID, last year was challenging for all our local businesses, non-profit organizations, and residents. It caused major financial challenges due to the state shutdown and phased reopening. The city distributed 100% of the CARES Act grants, over $600,000, to help local businesses and non-profit organizations that provided essential services to our residents.
My short-term priority is to support our local businesses as they continue to recover from the impact of COVID. I will work on fully restoring city events such as concerts, movie in the park, wine walks, and winter lights festival to encourage residents and tourists to spend money with our local businesses.
Long-term, we need to put more emphasis on economic development. As Mayor, I will develop strategies around business retention, expansion, and tourism to diversify the tax base. There are vacant store spaces that need to be filled. I will work with local partners such as Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce to help recruit businesses for start-up, expansion, or relocation.
Our Economic Development Commission periodically surveys local businesses including retail, services, and commercial businesses to determine the ease of doing business in Snoqualmie. While on Council, I have helped improve the business climate including reducing traffic congestion, adding affordable workforce housing, increasing signage, and providing resources to reduce employee shortages through job fairs.
Overall, ensuring Snoqualmie has a good economic and business climate, and supporting our local businesses will help current businesses thrive and attract new businesses. I am dedicated to guiding and strengthening Snoqualmie’s ongoing economic development in ways that will benefit our community.
Question 4: What do you feel are the city’s biggest…