Q&A with Snoqualmie Mayoral Candidate Katherine Ross: Qualifications, Revenue Shortfalls, Property Taxes and City Challenges

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 challenges and how do you plan to address them?

Katherine: Home affordability is a major issue throughout Snoqualmie and King County. One of my goals is to preserve and facilitate additional affordable housing for the workforce and seniors. There were 191 units of affordable housing built over the past couple of years, but this is not enough.  Increasing affordable housing for Snoqualmie’s workforce will benefit the whole community by attracting and retaining a good employee base for our city, schools, businesses, hospital, fire, and police departments. Snoqualmie also needs a variety of senior living options such as a retirement community, assisted living facility, or skilled nursing care facility. I was instrumental in Council approving and implementing legislation that will help fund affordable housing, rental assistance, and homeless services.  As Mayor, I will devise a plan to look at current housing inventory, determine future housing needs and identify affordable housing partners to help address housing demand.

Traffic congestion is also one of our city’s challenges. I supported the installation of a dedicated Snoqualmie Parkway I-90 on-ramp, reducing significant back-ups on Snoqualmie Parkway and SR-18, benefitting our residents and SR-18 commuters. This temporary on-ramp will be utilized for several years longer than planned until construction of the I-90/SR-18 interchange and widening SR-18 to Deep Creek occurs. The I-90/SR-18 state transportation project is currently in the design phase, with completion of the project estimated by 2024. I will work with regional  and state legislators to access funding for widening SR-18 from Deep Creek to Issaquah-Hobart Road.

The Snoqualmie Parkway is over 20 years old and needs resurfacing. The city recently completed a crack seal project which will extend the useful life for several more years until we work through funding for the Parkway overlay, which could be around $6 million. Snoqualmie Parkway is used as an extension between state highways SR-202 and SR-18.  One option to pursue with WSDOT is to transfer the Parkway to the state, whom would become responsible for ongoing maintenance instead of Snoqualmie.  As Mayor, I will work with our legislators to access federal and state funding to help pay for the Parkway resurfacing and review the option to become part of the state highway, similar to SR-202 in downtown Snoqualmie.

Candidate Bio with Linked Website

Katherine Ross: My husband of 25 years, and I have loved making Snoqualmie a home for our twin daughters for the past 17 years. Our twin daughters started kindergarten here and graduated from Mount Si High School.  During this time, I volunteered in our schools, Snoqualmie city committees and non-profit organizations in the Valley. Serving our community has allowed me to be engaged in strategic planning, fiscal oversight, and governance.

As a business professional, I worked for Fortune 500 Companies for close to 20 years.  As an internal operations auditor for PACCAR, I took a business approach to streamlining departmental processes, evaluating and implementing internal controls.  As a purchasing manager for PACCAR and Esterline Technologies, 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.

My Snoqualmie councilmember experience, professional career, community service, and education have prepared me to be an effective Mayor for the City of Snoqualmie. I will apply my extensive experience to fiscal accountability, strategic planning, and implementing policies that benefit our community.

Educational Experience

  • MBA (Seattle University)
  • B.S. in Business Administration (Iowa State University)
  • Association of Washington Cities Certificate of Municipal Leadership
  • ​Leadership Eastside Enrichment Program Graduate
  • Certified Purchasing Management
  • United Way – Effective Board Members and Leadership Courses

Comments

  1. Steven Silverman says

    I spoke with Ms. Ross for about 15 minutes earlier this week on my front porch. I get the same feeling from these answers as I got from her then: meh…. These answers, and her conversation the other day make me think that she may make a good bureaucrat, or auditor. But IMO Ms. Ross shows little enthusiasm for being a mayor, no fire in the belly for the tough work of creating civic solutions. We are going to need more revenue, but she says little of what will do it. How will she fill retail? How will she produce more income? We can’t crack-fill our way to savings as a community. In the answers posted here, she states more than once that as mayor she “will develop strategies,” but she offers no new ideas, no innovative thoughts, no exciting options. I would prefer someone who can bring the community together around a big idea that we can all understand and support. What I see here looks like more of what we have been doing – so I expect more of what we have gotten. Meh.

    • Julie Gran says

      I completely agree with you, Steven. This is talk of a professional politician that caters to special interests groups and will raise taxes to fulfill her campaign promises. I have not seen her take a stand on anything during the 4 years she has been on Council, in fact, have not heard her speak at any of the numerous Council meetings I attended during the last election cycle. She has voted for growth over citizen concerns. Her opponent Peggy Sheppard has been the lone voice on Council for supporting citizens being heard and keeping the Council accountable to following the rule of the law. I too prefer someone who has a passion for advocating for the citizens of Snoqualmie, than someone who is just creating messaging to win the election.

  2. Julie Gran says

    For this to be professional journalism, there needs to be equal representation of the other mayoral candidate Peggy Sheppard. So far I have seen no articles of any kind from here camp. Only the one about her censure. Yet I have seen at least 2 for Ross. Why is that? I offered to contact Living Snoqualmie on her behalf and was told that Living Snoqualmie has refused to interact with her to some past grudge. And a pattern of deleting posts from her and her camp.

    • Melissa Grant says

      The first was a letter to the editor and was clearly marked as an opinion piece. Peggy’s Q&A will run tomorrow. Same format, same questions

    • Melissa Grant says

      There is no grudge, never has been. She and I had a perfectly pleasant email exchange. Over the years we have continued to contact Ms. Shepard for story comments and have not deleted her comments. I’ll ask that this rumor be put to rest.

    • Yes, it is a conspiracy;) Give me a break, take your pitch fork back to FB.

  3. This is same “talk around the subject” rhetoric we get from the current administration. No thanks! Time for a change, time for a Mayor who actually hears the people.

  4. Lisa Abram Nelson says

    No doubt there is a place in this city’s governance for someone with Ms. Ross’ dedication and left brained analytical nature, but I don’t think mayor is the right fit. She can report well in detail the current status of revenues, taxes, budgets, etc. but there is no vision about how to move forward and especially to change direction. She has made it clear that she will perpetuate the current policies and culture of the Matt Larson Snoqualmie. As Fuzzy Fletcher once said, there is a better way.

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