Mayor Law touts job growth but raises tax possibility in State of the City address
March 21, 2012 · Updated 4:17 PM
The word “jobs” sums up the positive tone of Mayor Denis Law’s State of the City address on Wednesday.
“While the last four years have been difficult, the city has weathered them well,” Law said. “We’ve had challenges, but despite those challenges, our community continues to grow and thrive.”
A packed crowd at the Holiday Inn listened to Law’s annual speech, presented by the Renton Chamber of Commerce.
He cautioned, however, that the effects of the recession will continue for at least the next two or three years, especially affecting the city’s ability to provide services and maintain its infrastructure.
To meet those demands, he said, “will require additional resources.
“We will need to explore some taxing options with our citizens, as most other cities and counties have had to do,” he said.
The city has begun developing its two-year budget for 2013 and 2014. As it has done in the past, the city will ask citizens and business leaders to help with the process, he said.
As it typically is, Boeing has been the catalyst for some of that job optimism.
In looking back over the past year, Law pointed to what he described as the “landmark decision” to build the 737 MAX in Renton. To meet the demand for the MAX and other variants of the world’s most-popular jetliner, Boeing plans to ramp up production to 42 737s a month by 2014.
In doing so, the company will add hundreds of employees – 600 to 800 this year and about the same number next year, he said.
Another major Renton employer, PACCAR also is adding jobs at its Kenworth Truck Division in North Renton. Production of Kenworth trucks had dropped to an average of two trucks per day during the recession; now the rate is 18 trucks a day, or pre-recession levels, he said.
Since June 2010 PACCAR has hired 540 workers.
In addition to more jobs at major employers, Renton’s overall economy is diversified and growing, he said.
The number of jobs in Renton grew by 9 percent between 2010 and 2011, and all that growth was not related just to Boeing, he said. The city added 170 businesses and by the end of 2011, the city had more businesses than the year before, he said.
In fact, he said, since the start of the recession in 2008, the total number of jobs in the city has increased by 2 percent. But, he added he wasn’t saying “the recession has been a good thing.”
The City of Renton also has worked closely with the statewide Washington Aerospace Partnership and King County Aerospace Alliance, to support the growth and stability of the aerospace industry, he said.
As part of that effort, the city is “working hard” in Olympia to obtain $2.5 million from the state Legislature to establish the Renton Aerospace Training Center at the Renton Municipal Airport, he said.
“This will allow Renton Technical College to expand the capacity of its aerospace training and, through a 12-week course, provide workers with the skills they need to obtain jobs in the aerospace industry,” he said.
Law also spoke extensively about the City of Renton’s efforts to continue to provide city services, despite the continuing reduction of tax revenue, including property taxes and sales taxes.
“When I met with you last year, I promised that the city was committed to focus on innovation, efficiency, and improved productivity despite budget challenges,” he said. “Once again, we kept that promise.”
Staffing levels were reduced and major cuts were made to the city’s budget, he said, despite “significant growth” in the city’s population. That growth included the annexation of the Benson Hill area.
“Every department made budget cuts and our employees continue to embrace our commitment to provide quality customer service,” he said.
But the recession’s effects will continue, he said, reflected especially in declining property values that in turn reduce the amount of property taxes that go to the city. Those revenue declines, he said, force the city to continually reassess “our service priorities and capabilities.”
“Sustaining the quality of our city must be our priority,” he said.