Kennewick may charge impact fees for future projects

KENNEWICK, Wash. -- The city of Kennewick says, to keep growing, it will need a new way to bring in money. Two ideas being considered include new impact fees or cutting city programs.

Sharon McAlmond has lived in Kennewick for the past 45 years. As a local business owner, she loves seeing her city grow.

"More businesses, more jobs for people, I'd like to see the younger people have a chance to get out and work," she said.

But that growth is also a financial challenge for the city. It's why Kennewick's mayor formed a blue-ribbon committee 18 months ago. The group of citizens helps direct city leaders on what the community's priorities are.

"To invest in it, you've got to get that input from the community that says, 'This is what I want; this is what I see as important,'" said Mayor Steve Young.

Staff say, over the next 20 years, Kennewick has $750 million planned for future projects - money that right now is nowhere to be found.

"The general fund can only pay so much, and when it can't continue projects will go awry," said Ron Hue.

Hue is part of that blue-ribbon committee. The group understands Kennewick either needs to add impact fees or cut services. This could include park and street maintenance.

Kennewick is currently the only one of the Tri-Cities without some kind of impact fees.

"Impact fees are the way cities are surviving," said Young. "If you stop and think how much money we get from property tax, it's a very small amount. Even from sales tax it's a small amount."

Sharon is in favor of cuts, rather than being asked to pay higher taxes.

"I don't want to do away with people we need on the fire department or police department, but I do think we can do away with some of it and put citizens in charge of cleaning their streets and their parks," she said.

The committee points to an additional fire station and completion of the Southridge Complex as musts for Kennewick.

"There are options, but unfortunately the bill has to be paid," said Hue.

"We're all willing to step up and pay for what we absolutely have to have, but the rest of it is money we don't have," said Sharon.

There is no timetable for a decision.