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Can we file an extension for our annual budget? Are there any penalties? If we can file for an extension how do we proceed?
Reviewed: 10/18

You really can’t file an extension. However, if the council is unable to pass a new budget by year’s end, it could adopt the current year’s budget on an interim basis, adjusting the revenue expected for the new year. Here is an MRSC Insight blog article on this from a few years ago, Do We Really Need To Pass a Budget by Year’s End? It discusses the need to do something, and it suggests that the council could adopt the current budget for next year on an interim basis. Then, when council is able to reach agreement, it can amend the interim budget to reflect the new agreement.

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Must a code city advertise vacant space for lease in a city building?
Reviewed: 10/18

There is not a state law requirement to advertise the city’s vacant space in the library building for lease. The city could advertise or use an RFP but is not required to do so. So long as the space is not needed for a public purpose, either related to the library or the city, then it should be permissible to use a rental agreement or short term lease to a local church (or other organization) if you are charging a fair market value for the space. If you have a local policy to advertise when the space is vacant then, of course, follow the local policy.

Pursuant to RCW 35A.11.010, a code city’s authority includes the authority to lease or convey real and personal property. Although a city does not want to be in the business of leasing property, when in the short term there is vacant space that is not needed by the city, then the city may lease it to others. Presumably the term of the lease would not be so long as to deny the city the future use of the space when additional space is needed. You could consider adding a term to the lease to accommodate future public need for the space.

Here is a link to MRSC”s webpage Public Facility Rental and Use. Here is a link to MRSC’s webpage Sale of Surplus City or Town Property.

 

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May the veterans' scoring criteria status be claimed in a civil service examination where it previously has been claimed and the person was thereby employed, even if employed by a different public employer?
Reviewed: 10/18

RCW 41.04.010 restricts the scoring criteria status so that it can only be used to obtain employment once (“…until the veteran’s first appointment.”). Once employment is obtained after using this preference, it may not be used again, even if the status was claimed and employment obtained with a different public agency in Washington State. Note that this one-time limitation applies only to the use of the veterans' scoring criteria status that is authorized by RCW 41.04.010. The fact that a veteran may have obtained a job in another state using that state’s veteran’s preference provisions does not impact this state’s veterans’ preference under RCW 41.04.010.

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Is a courthouse camera security system a public works project?
Reviewed: 10/18

We believe such a project does not require public works competitive bidding under state law because RCW 39.04.270 allows municipalities to acquire technology such as electronic data processing or telecommunication equipment, software, or services through competitive negotiation rather than through competitive bidding. We think an electronic camera security system would fit this description. The statute provides:

(1) The legislature finds that the unique aspects of electronic data processing and telecommunications systems and the importance of these systems for effective administration warrant separate acquisition authority for electronic data processing and telecommunication systems. It is the intent of the legislature that municipalities utilize an acquisition method for electronic data processing and telecommunication systems that is both competitive and compatible with the needs of the municipalities.

(2) A municipality may acquire electronic data processing or telecommunication equipment, software, or services through competitive negotiation rather than through competitive bidding.

(3) "Competitive negotiation," for the purposes of this section, shall include, as a minimum, the following requirements:

(a) A request for proposal shall be prepared and submitted to an adequate number of qualified sources, as determined by the municipality in its discretion, to permit reasonable competition consistent with the requirements of the procurement. Notice of the request for the proposal must be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality at least thirteen days before the last date upon which proposals will be received. The request for proposal shall identify significant evaluation factors, including price, and their relative importance.

(b) The municipality shall provide reasonable procedures for technical evaluation of the proposals received, identification of qualified sources, and selection for awarding the contract.

(c) The award shall be made to the qualified bidder whose proposal is most advantageous to the municipality with price and other factors considered. The municipality may reject any and all proposals for good cause and request new proposals.

(Emphasis added).

For a capital purchase using a request for proposals (RFP) process, you could also include RFQ content in an RFP. Here is a link to MRSC’s Telecommunications and Data Processing Purchases section of the Purchasing Goods, Equipment, Materials and Supplies topic with the steps for following this alternative process. Here is a link to MRSC’s publication County Bidding Book, Washington State.

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Is there a legal requirement, or is it only a best practice, for a city to run a police officer's off-duty employment (i.e. security detail at a private event) through the city's payroll system?
Reviewed: 10/18

There is not a state law requiring off duty police work be paid through the city’s payroll system. We are not sure that it is necessarily a “best practice” but we do know it is one option followed by some cities and counties.

There is no specific statutory authorization for officers to provide security work for private employers; that is true for both county and city law enforcement. But it is done regularly, and has been done for decades. Some jurisdictions have adopted policies that attempt to draw a line between work that is done through the public entity and work that is done separately. There are obviously many considerations, including FLSA, liability, use of public equipment for private purposes, etc. . . . .

Having trained officers present at gatherings that raise the potential for violence is generally considered to be good for the community. Having the cost of that security paid for by private employers is a plus.

Some use of law enforcement officers for private purposes are broadly accepted, such as having police motorcycle officers accompany large funeral processions. In some jurisdictions there is a requirement that officers be paid to help direct traffic when major construction projects result in road restrictions. The underlying assumption is that it is often better to have well-trained officers handle situations that could get dangerous if not done properly.

Here are links to MRSC’s webpages on Outside Employment Policies and Police and Law Enforcement Services Policy and Procedure Manuals/a>.

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When is an extended leave of absence allowed for a councilmember?
Reviewed: 09/18

RCW 35A.12.060 provides that “a council position shall become vacant if the councilmember fails to attend three consecutive regular meetings of the council without being excused by the council.”

A councilmember on an extended leave of absence retains the council position so long as the absences from council meetings are excused by the remaining councilmembers, typically by motion. The position is not vacant unless there are three consecutive absences at regular meetings for which the absences are not excused by the council. The councilmember is still a resident of the city even while on an extended trip. Unless the councilmember resigns, as long as the absences are excused there is not a vacancy.

Some cities have policies allowing councilmembers to participate in meetings remotely via telephone or videoconferencing. Depending on the circumstances and duration of the leave, this might be a consideration.

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Can Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) funds be used for debt service?
Reviewed: 09/18

Debt service is considered a direct result of a capital project, so REET I and REET II funds can be used for debt service of capital projects that meet the respective definitions and are listed in the city’s CIP. Use of REET II funds for REET I debt service is allowed, but subject to the REET II Cap and other requirements of RCW 82.46.037.

RCW 82.46.037(1)(c) provides for the use of REET 2 funds for “capital projects as defined in RCW 82.46.010(6)(b) (REET 1) that are not also included within the definition of capital projects in RCW 82.46.035(5)”.

The statute further provides in sub-section (2) of RCW 82.46.037 (emphasis added):

  • (2) A city or county may use revenues pursuant to subsection (1) of this section if:
  • (a) The city or county prepares a written report demonstrating that it has or will have adequate funding from all sources of public funding to pay for all capital projects, as defined in RCW 82.46.035(5), identified in its capital facilities plan for the succeeding two-year period; and
  • (b)(i) The city or county has not enacted, after June 9, 2016, any requirement on the listing or sale of real property; or any requirement on landlords, at the time of executing a lease, to perform or provide physical improvements or modifications to real property or fixtures, except if necessary to address an immediate threat to health or safety; or
  • (ii) Any local requirement adopted by the city or county under (b)(i) of this subsection is: Specifically authorized by RCW 35.80.030, 35A.11.020, chapter 7.48 RCW, or chapter 19.27 RCW; specifically authorized by other state or federal law; or a seller or landlord disclosure requirement pursuant to RCW 64.06.080.

So the bottom line is that yes, they may use REET 2 funds for debt service of REET 1 projects if:

  1. They prepare a written report demonstrating that it has or will have adequate funding from all sources of public funding to pay for all REET 2 capital projects
  2. That the debt service being paid was for a capital project that was listed in the county CFP

Debt service is considered a direct result of the “capital project” as defined by statute, whether it is acquisition, construction, repair, replacement …..etc. and we have confirmed this interpretation with Cindy Evans, Legal Counsel for SAO.

RCW 82.46.037(2) places additional requirements on the use of REET 2 funds under RCW 82.46.037(1)(c). So a county that seeks to use REET 2 funds for REET 1 project debt service is subject to the cap in subsection (1) and the reporting requirements in subsection (2).

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Can a public agency require that all requestors fill out a public records request form?
Reviewed: 09/18

Case law on this issue indicates that if an agency receives a request that is recognizable as a PRA request and that request is for an identifiable public record, then such a request will constitute a valid PRA request, regardless of whether the request is submitted on a form provided by the agency or otherwise submitted in writing. For example, in Beal v. City of Seattle, 150 Wn. App. 865, 876-877 (2009), the court concludes in relevant part:

The PRA does not require written requests, but it does require that requests be recognizable as PRA requests. The request’s medium may be relevant to its clarity, and an oral statement during the course of a meeting is less clear than a written request would have been. Citizens failed to put the agency on notice at the meeting or in their early e-mails that they were requesting public records. Their request could have been, and apparently was, a request that the City simply provide feedback and information. As such, this request, like the request in Lowe, was ambiguous. The trial court properly ruled that Citizens did not make a PRA request at the January 24 meeting.

The court in a more recent decision, Germeau v. Mason County, 166 Wn. App. 789, 804-805 (2012), explains further:

“[T]he P[R]A ‘only applies when public records have been requested. In other words, public disclosure is not necessary until and unless there has been a specific request for records.’” Wood, 102 Wn. App. at 876-77. [Fn. 16] A “‘specific request for [public] records’” occurs when “the person requesting documents from an agency state[s] the request with sufficient clarity to give the agency fair notice that it had received a request for a public record.” Wood, 102 Wn. App. at 877-78 (emphasis added) (quoting Bonamy, 92 Wn. App. at 409). In other words, at a minimum, the PRA “require[s] that requests be recognizable as PRA requests.” Beal v. City of Seattle, 150 Wn. App. 865, 876, 209 P.3d 872 (2009). The issue here is not whether the County adhered to the PRA’s disclosure requirements but, rather, whether Germeau’s letter triggered any obligation by the County to comply with the PRA.
[Fn. 16] Quoting Bonamy [v. City of Seattle], 92 Wn. App. [403] at 409; see also RCW 42.56.080RCW 42.56.080 (“[A]gencies shall, upon request for identifiable public records, make them promptly available.” (emphasis added)).

Thus, while a public agency can request that a person fill out a specific form, in our opinion public agencies cannot require that they do so.

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If a citizen donates property to the city (no cash) valued at thousands of dollars, what tax form can the city sign for the citizen to give them a tax deduction/advantage?
Reviewed: 09/18

Generally donations to a municipality are tax deductible for federal tax purposes and municipalities can issue a donation receipt for such donations. Title 26, Section 170(c)(1), of the Internal Revenue Code states that the term “charitable contribution” includes a contribution or gift to, or for the use of a state or any political subdivision of a state if the contribution or gift is made for exclusively public purposes. Most donors will accept a statement from the city citing this title and section.

IRS Publication No. 1771, Charitable Contributions-Substantiation and Disclosure Requirements explains what documentation is needed for the donor from the municipality to allow for the donation to be written off as a charitable donation.

Here are some relevant quotations from that publication:

A key exemption relied upon by affiliates of governmental units is set forth in Section 115 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended (“IRC”). It requires the income be derived from the exercise of an “essential government function” or that the income accrue to the benefit of the governmental unit.

And,

IRC Section 170 provides that donations made for exclusively public purposes, to or for the use of a state or political subdivision, are deductible against the taxable income of individuals, corporations, and other taxpayers, subject to various limitations.

If you need written confirmation from the IRS they will issue a "government affirmation letter" upon request. This letter describes government entity exemption from Federal income tax and cites applicable Internal Revenue Code sections pertaining to deductible contributions and income exclusion. Most organizations and individuals will accept the government affirmation letter as the substantiation they need. To get such a letter, call the IRS Tax-Exempt/Government Entity Cincinnati Call Site at 1-877-829-5500.

Should you have any additional questions, you can contact the state’s IRS representative, Jennifer A. Macht. She may be contacted by email at Jennifer.A.Macht@irs.gov or by phone at (206) 946-3477.

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Does the new state law requiring paid sick leave apply to elected officials?
Reviewed: 08/18

The new paid sick leave law does not apply to elected officials. Elected and appointed officials are expressly excluded from the definition of “employees”. RCW 49.46.010 provides, in part (emphasis added:

(3) “Employee” includes any individual employed by an employer but shall not include:
. . . (l) Any individual who holds a public elective or appointive office of a state, any county, city , town, or municipal corporation or quasi municipal corporation, political subdivision, or any instrumentality thereof, or any employee of the state legislature;

For more information, here is a link to an MRSC blogpost Paid Sick Leave Starts January 1.

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When is an RFP required of a City? Currently we’re looking at software needs.
Reviewed: 08/18

An RFP (Request for Proposal) is typically used in soliciting services or products where you are providing preliminary requirements and want the bidder to respond with a specific process and/or products to achieve a desired objective. Responses are analyzed and the most suitable proposal in conjunction with acceptable pricing is selected. An RFP is not to be utilized where a public works bid process is required, which are awarded based on cost.

For software purchases, RCW 39.04.270 provides the option for a competitive negotiation process rather than a competitive bid process. Subsections (2) and (3) of this statute state the following:

(2) A municipality may acquire electronic data processing or telecommunication equipment, software, or services through competitive negotiation rather than through competitive bidding.

(3) "Competitive negotiation," for the purposes of this section, shall include, as a minimum, the following requirements:

(a) A request for proposal shall be prepared and submitted to an adequate number of qualified sources, as determined by the municipality in its discretion, to permit reasonable competition consistent with the requirements of the procurement. Notice of the request for the proposal must be published in a newspaper of general circulation in the municipality at least thirteen days before the last date upon which proposals will be received. The request for proposal shall identify significant evaluation factors, including price, and their relative importance.

(b) The municipality shall provide reasonable procedures for technical evaluation of the proposals received, identification of qualified sources, and selection for awarding the contract.

(c) The award shall be made to the qualified bidder whose proposal is most advantageous to the municipality with price and other factors considered. The municipality may reject any and all proposals for good cause and request new proposals.

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RCW 36.32.270 allows counties to waive competitive bidding requirements pursuant to RCW 39.04.280 in the event of emergencies. Is there a similar one for cities?
Reviewed: 08/18

RCW 39.04.280 applies to “municipalities,” which includes cities and towns. That provision exempts competitive bidding when there are:

unforeseen circumstances beyond the control of the municipality that either: (a) Present a real, immediate threat to the proper performance of essential functions; or (b) will likely result in material loss or damage to property, bodily injury, or loss of life if immediate action is not taken.

RCW 35.33.081 applies to towns and authorizes emergency expenditures from a budgetary standpoint.

Both these provisions may be cited if there is an emergency that meets the criteria set forth in the statutes.

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What cities have implemented a neighborhood parking ordinance?
Reviewed: 08/18

A custom code search or “residential parking permits” turns up many more examples.

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We are in the process of doing a cost study regarding charging for records. Are we able to charge for the amount of time it takes us to do redactions?
Reviewed: 07/18

An agency cannot charge for the time it takes to redact a public record. As stated in the Attorney General Model Rules (WAC 44-14-07001):

An agency cannot charge a "redaction fee" for the staff time necessary to prepare the records for inspection, for the copying required to redact records before they are inspected, or an archive fee for getting the records from off-site. Op. Att'y Gen. 6 (1991). These are the costs of making the records available for inspection or copying and cannot be charged to the requestor.

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What are the procedures for closing out a public works project with retainage, retainage bond, and notices of completion when the contractor has warranty work to complete and the engineer asks the city to release final payment citing RCW 60.28.011?
Reviewed: 07/18

RCW 60.28.011(b) provides:

Sixty days after completion of all contract work the public body must release and pay in full the amounts retained during the performance of the contract subject to the provisions of chapter 39.12 RCW and this chapter.

The contract for the work may define “completion of all contract work” for purposes of this statute. It may be “final acceptance” or another measure of completion. If there are no claims or liens, then the agency must release the money within 60 days of the request. You will also want to clarify how and when the warranty work will be completed.

See MRSC’s text coverPublic Works Project Closeout page. The stages for completing a public works project are detailed and include final acceptance, sending notices of completion, and retainage release. Many examples of closeout documents are also provided.

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May a city impose business license requirements on businesses that don't have a physical location within the city but that do business within the city?
Reviewed: 07/18

Yes. Many Washington cities have passed ordinances requiring out-of-city businesses “engaging in business” within the city to obtain a city business license and/or to pay the city B&O tax. Some cities have created separate “in-city” and “out-of-city” licensing requirements and application forms.

However, in an attempt to provide some statewide standardization for businesses, note that chapter 35.90 RCW (adopted in 2017) requires all cities and towns with general business licensing requirements to adopt two “model ordinance” provisions impacting licensing for out-of-town businesses:

(1) Cities and towns must adopt a uniform definition of “engaging in business” as established by the model ordinance. This definition mirrors the definition of “engaging in business” for business and occupation (B&O) taxes.

(2) For businesses that engage in business within the city but are not physically located within the city, the ordinance establishes a minimum dollar threshold below which the businesses are partially or fully exempted from licensing requirements. The minimum threshold of business activity in the ordinance is $2,000. Cities may adopt a higher threshold if desired, but not a lower threshold.

Below the minimum threshold, cities must either:

  • Exempt these businesses from the licensing requirements entirely, or
  • Require licensing, but at no cost to the businesses.

Cities and towns must update their business licensing requirements to include these model provisions no later than October 17, 2018 (for current BLS partner cities) and January 1, 2019 for all other cities and towns. Any city or town that does not adopt the model ordinance by the deadline is prohibited from enforcing its general business licensing requirements until it adopts the model ordinance provisions.

For the exact language that must be used, see the complete model ordinance text. For further details, see our City Business Licensing and Fees topic page.

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Does a city manager have authority to adopt procurement policies and procedures without council action?
Reviewed: 07/18

RCW 35A.13.080 establishes the powers and duties of the city manager in a council-manager form of government including “general supervision over the administrative affairs of the code city”  and “to recommend for adoption by the council such measures as he or she may deem necessary or expedient.” By statute, the council has contract authority for the city. RCW 35A.11.010.

The council may delegate its authority to adopt procurement policies and procedures to the city manager. Typically, in approving a contract, the council will authorize and direct the city manager to sign the contract on behalf of the city. It’s common for a city council to delegate via city policy a portion of its contract authority to the city manager (e.g., for contracts of a certain type and/or contracts up to a certain dollar amount).

If your city council has delegated authority to the city manager to adopt such policies, then yes, a city manager may do so. Council action may still be needed or recommended, depending on your local ordinances and resolutions. Here is a link to MRSC’s page Procurement Policy Guidelines

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Must an entity be a non-profit or public agency in order to receive lodging tax funding? Can the City award funds to anyone?
Reviewed: 07/18

Lodging tax funds may be distributed to any organization or entity that intends to use the award as allowed by statute (RCW 67.28.1816).

The issue is not whether the organization is non-profit vs. profit or public vs. private but how the lodging tax funds are allowed to be used.

Lodging tax funds may be provided to fund tourism promotion by entities that are either nonprofit (like most chambers of commerce) or for-profit companies. The key factor is that the funds must be used to encourage tourism and overnight stays in your community.

Lodging tax funds may be distributed to those organizations (convention and visitors bureau or destination marketing organizations) that can meet the criteria as outlined in RCW 67.28.1816 (1) which states that lodging tax funds can be used for:

  • Tourism marketing;
  • Marketing and operations of special events and festivals designed to attract tourists;
  • Operations and capital expenditures of tourism-related facilities owned or operated by a municipality or a public facilities district; or
  • Operations of tourism-related facilities owned or operated by nonprofit organizations. (RCW 67.22.1816)

Additionally, all applicants should be aware of the reporting requirements outlined in RCW 67.28.1816 (2) which in part states that:

(2)(a) Except as provided in (b) of this subsection, applicants applying for use of revenues in this chapter must provide the municipality to which they are applying estimates of how any moneys received will result in increases in the number of people traveling for business or pleasure on a trip:

(i) Away from their place of residence or business and staying overnight in paid accommodations;

(ii) To a place fifty miles or more one way from their place of residence or business for the day or staying overnight; or

(iii) From another country or state outside of their place of residence or their business.

Our office can only express an opinion about the procedures for distribution of lodging tax and the allowed uses of lodging tax funds that are recommended for distribution. The Washington State Auditor’s Office (SAO) is the final authority for interpretation regarding the use of restricted resources by local government. Lodging tax is one those restricted revenues. You may submit your question to the SAO helpdesk if you would like their response to provide supporting documentation for your future audit.

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What are the legal requirements for council work sessions with respect to notice, taking minutes, whether the clerk needs to be present, and public participation?
Reviewed: 06/18

Under RCW 35A.12.120, the city council may establish rules for the conduct of council meetings. A council study/work session where a quorum is present is a form of council meeting under the Open Public Meetings Act (OPMA) Chapter 42.30 RCW. The meetings are required to be open to the public. RCW 42.30.030. Your council may establish procedures for work sessions including rules to follow for public participation in the sessions.

Special meetings are governed by RCW 42.30.080 and require at least 24 hour notice specifying the time and place and the business to be transacted.

RCW 42.32.035 requires that minutes be kept of all regular and special meetings except executive sessions. This would include council work sessions. There is not a state law requirement that the clerk be present so look to local ordinance or rules about the clerk’s attendance at council work sessions. If the clerk is not required to attend then another person needs to take minutes.

For more general information, here are links to MRSC’s topic pages “Open Public Meetings Act”, “Council Committees” and “Communication and Citizen Participation”.

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Is a public hearing required prior to council adopting its CIP and TIP?
Reviewed: 06/18

Yes, a public hearing is required for the adoption of both the CIP and TIP.

RCW 35A.63.073 requires comprehensive plan amendments (and the CIP is part of that) to be processed the same way as adoption of the plan. RCW 35A.63.070 requires the "planning agency" to hold a public hearing (at least one) and RCW 35A.63.071 requires the planning agency to forward its recommendations on the plan or amendment to the city council.

RCW 35.77.010, relating to the transportation improvement plan (TIP) states in part:

(1) The legislative body of each city and town, pursuant to one or more public hearings thereon, shall prepare and adopt a comprehensive transportation program for the ensuing six calendar years. If the city or town has adopted a comprehensive plan pursuant to chapter 35.63 or 35A.63 RCW, the inherent authority of a first-class city derived from its charter, or chapter 36.70A RCW, the program shall be consistent with this comprehensive plan. The program shall include any new or enhanced bicycle or pedestrian facilities identified pursuant to RCW 36.70A.070(6) or other applicable changes that promote nonmotorized transit.

The program shall be filed with the secretary of transportation not more than thirty days after its adoption. Annually thereafter the legislative body of each city and town shall review the work accomplished under the program and determine current city transportation needs. Based on these findings each such legislative body shall prepare and after public hearings thereon adopt a revised and extended comprehensive transportation program before July 1st of each year, and each one-year extension and revision shall be filed with the secretary of transportation not more than thirty days after its adoption. The purpose of this section is to assure that each city and town shall perpetually have available advanced plans looking to the future for not less than six years as a guide in carrying out a coordinated transportation program. The program may at any time be revised by a majority of the legislative body of a city or town, but only after a public hearing. (Our emphasis)

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We have an employee resigning who has accumulated some compensatory time and won't be using it before his last day. Does the city pay him for the unused comp time on his final paycheck?
Reviewed: 06/18

Yes. Comp time allows an employee to take paid time off work instead of being paid overtime pay. Comp time accumulates in the same fashion as overtime pay; that is, for every hour worked over 40 hours during the workweek, the employee, if he or she chooses to do so and the use of comp time has been agreed to, accumulates comp time at the rate of an hour and one-half for each overtime hour.

When an employee separates from employment with the city, all accumulated compensatory time must be paid to the employee as these are earnings that he should have been paid for at the time of earning but chose to use for leave time as a benefit provided by the city. MRSC has a web page on the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) which discusses the topic of Compensatory time.

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Can we pay mileage to a Planning Commissioner to attend a training event?
Reviewed: 05/18

Yes, the town can reimburse the planning commission member for the travel costs if the town feels that the training would be beneficial, and if the travel is consistent with any policies adopted by the town regarding covering travel costs of town employees or other officers. RCW 35.63.030 provides that planning commission members “shall serve without compensation” – but reimbursement of expenses is not considered to be compensation. The amounts reimbursed for business-related travel are not taxable income.

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Request for background information about the business license service provided by the Washington State Department of Revenue, including when and why it started, and the benefits.
Reviewed: 05/18

The State's Business Licensing Service (BLS) system is a division of the Department of Revenue (DOR) and was established to streamline the business licensing process for vendors who need to register in multiple locations. The BLS site provides users the ability to access licensing information and applications for all cities currently registered.

The State legislature asked for a simplification of the business licensing requirements to be addressed by a task force and reported back to the legislature with HB 2959. The report was released 12/31/2016 "Local Tax & Licensing Simplification Task Force .” This report provides an excellent review of the DOR/BLS program as well as the optional business license service called “FileLocal” that was created via an interlocal agreement with the cities of Bellevue, Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma.

As a result of the legislation (HB 2959) and the task force results, the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) was charged with working with cities to develop a “model business license ordinance” that will be required to be adopted by all cities that currently have or will be adopting business licensing requirements. For more information, see AWC’s web page on “Task force on local business tax & licensing simplification.”

The current task force consists of several cities throughout the State and the current timeline has the work group reviewing draft model licensing language in February, release to all cities in March, review of feedback from cities in April, finalizing the model in May and presenting to the cities at the AWC Conference in June with finalization of the model ordinance in July and out-reach to cities throughout the remainder of the year to assure smooth implementation on January 1, 2019.

All cities currently with business license ordinances currently in place will have to modify and implement the new requirements starting in January 2019.

At this time, the primary source of information on the draft model business license ordinance and business licensing services options is AWC. You can contact Victoria Lincoln @ 360-753-4137 or email: victorial@awcnet.org.

(Link to this question)

Do you have any information on how other cities are dealing with vacant and foreclosed homes?
Reviewed: 05/18

Please see the following:

  • Ch. 6.10, Bremerton Municipal Code, “Abandoned Property Registration and Maintenance (see also “Abandoned Property Registration”)
  • Ch. 16.16, Everett Municipal Code, “Maintenance of Vacant Commercial Space in the Central Business District”
  • Ch. 15.20, Auburn Municipal Code, “Property Maintenance Code” (see Sec. 15.20.080, Vacant property registration)

You may also be interested in reviewing the following related resources:

(Link to this question)

Our municipal code states that utility bills are the responsibility of the "property owner".
If ownership of a property changes, can we pass along unpaid bills to the new property owner,
and withhold services until the old owner's account is current?

Reviewed: 05/18

RCW 60.80 governs the status of unpaid utility bills in the context of property transfer. We have a topic page on Utility Charges and Property Transfers that lays out how this works, as well as this Property Transfers Worksheet. Whether you can withhold services will depend on if the proper steps were followed in the statute. For example, if the city received a request for final billing pursuant to the statute, but fails to respond, it loses its unrecorded lien and may not recover the charges from the buyer. If, on the other hand, no request for final billing is submitted related to the sale, the property remains subject to the unrecorded lien (the buyer is responsible for the unpaid charges).

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