The SnoValley Chamber of Commerce State of the Cities Luncheon featured Snoqualmie Mayor Katherine Ross’ 1st annual “State of the City” address. The mayor’s speech spoke of changes and new energy for the city along with those changes.
Ross noted that she and her family have lived in Snoqualmie for over 18 years and talked of raising and educating her twin daughters in the valley, saying, “we’ve been invested in the community for a long time.”
The mayor described 2022 as a year of big change as the city bounces back from two of the most challenging years in recent memory. New City Administrator Mike Sauerwein was one of those changes, starting just as Mayor Ross took office. She says the two have developed a collaborative approach to running the city.
Also mentioned were four new city councilmembers; Cara Christensen, Ethan Benson, Rob Wotton and Jolyon (Jo) Johnson, who, according to Ross, bring enthusiasm and a unique perspective to “helping guide the city.” Ross noted other city positions that had recently been filled but said they still have open positions and urged the audience, who chuckled, to visit the website and apply.
Ross remarked that in 2021 the city of Snoqualmie received approximately 1.9 million dollars in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. ARPA is a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus bill to speed up the country’s recovery from the economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing recession. 
According to Ross, the ARPA funds are being used to support government services and the community to restore past pandemic-related budget and staff cuts, backfill revenue losses and support projects and initiatives delayed in the past two years. An ARPA committee was established, and a coordinator was hired to launch a community grant program for local businesses, non-profits and residents that accepted applications over the winter. The city hopes to distribute the grants in the next couple of months, and more ARPA funds are expected this summer.
In contrast to last year’s pessimistic ‘State of the City’ from former Mayor Larson, Ross proclaimed, “we now have a better grasp of our long-term financial picture and are optimistic that we have a realistic path forward.” She noted positives as steady revenue streams from property, sales and utility taxes, the ARPA funds, staff attrition, council priorities and biennial budget plans.
Ross noted that one of the city’s biggest historical challenges is the battle between increasing expenses and revenue limitations. She said staffing accounts for 65% of city expenditures, rising by 3 to 5% per year, while the city’s most significant source of income, property taxes, are limited to a 1% annual increase.
Keeping those two lines from crossing the city is utilizing careful budget planning, lowering costs, and looking at ways to maximize other revenue streams such as increased tourism and economic development. One example of an effort to boost tourism is a Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) grant to the SnoValley Chamber to launch a tourism website and app.
The mayor then discussed the Move-Ahead Washington Transportation Package calling it a big win for the community. The state will be funding roughly 80% of the project in the form of five million dollars to help with the resurfacing of the Snoqualmie Parkway after a 2020 study showed that over 80% of the roadways damage was caused by regional truck traffic.
The city of Snoqualmie will also be applying to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to convert the parkway as part of SR18, which would result in the state taking responsibility for the roadways repairs and maintenance with a potential of one million in savings to the local taxpayers.
Another notable win, said Ross, is the $640 million earmarked to widen SR18 from Issaquah Hobart Road to I90. Also mentioned was the diverging diamond interchange at the I90/SR18 interchange soon to start construction and other city street construction projects.
Calling Snoqualmie a “highly livable city,” the mayor spoke of investments in the community to maintain that livability. She told of a city council tour of projects identified for the next six-year capital improvement plan. These projects include the Park Street revetment, an all-inclusive playground at Centennial Park and assessing a community center expansion/pool, among others.
Ross went on to say how proud she is of Snoqualmie’s #3 ranking as one of the state’s safest cities. The mayor said this ranking reflects “our awesome” police and fire departments. The police department is working towards full staffing levels with three new entry-level officers hired and is in the final stages of hiring a new police captain. The fire department is recruiting new volunteers to optimize call response.
The mayor spoke again of economic development mentioning new businesses that have opened over the past few months, including the Snoqualmie Trading Company, the Messa Group, Engel & Völkers Group and Snoqualmie Ridge Urgent Care. Wild Hare Vintage, under new owners, is remodeling. The Snoqualmie Brewing Company is expanding its outdoor space, and Sigillo Cellars is moving forward with its expansion plans. Other new businesses were mentioned as positive steps ahead in the business community.
After mentioning some of the fun activities that are slowly returning to the city calendar, Mayor Ross concluded by saying the city is hard at work planning the biennial budget and the six-year capital improvement plan for the beginning stages of the 2024 comprehensive plan update. The city will be surveying to identify priorities, a housing needs assessment study, and a new strategic plan.
The mayor ended by saying she, the city council and staff are committed to working and listening to help shape Snoqualmie’s future.