By Isaac Bonnell
Last year was tough for the City of Bellingham, and Mayor Dan Pike doesn’t see it getting much better this year.
Pike spoke about the state of the city to a group of members of the Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry on Jan. 13.
The city has already made it through the tough part of reducing the budget by about 13 percent, Pike said, but sustaining a lean budget will be the true test of city government.
“I’m sorry to say that we don’t have a long-term forecast that shows our revenue exceeding our expenses,” Pike said, adding that he expects revenues to remain flat.
He also expects that the city will need to use some of its reserves to make it through the year. Last year, the city used about $5 million from its reserve fund, he said.
“This year we might take another $2 to $3 million,” he said. “If you don’t dip into reserves at a time like this, I don’t know why you have reserves.”
Even with a tight budget, Pike remained a staunch supporter of continuing to fund the waterfront redevelopment. The waterfront, he said, represents a great chance to draw attention to the community and help rebuild our local economy.
Pike also spoke about the new office of Business Relations and Economic Development within the Planning and Community Development Department, which he hopes will help the city focus on new opportunities for economic development.
“I want it to be someplace where the city and business can interface,” he said. “For too long the city has not included you, the business community, in conversations that you should be a part of.”