As I make my rounds of Kent, it is not unusual for people to pull me aside and tell me that they really wish the city would do more — sometimes it’s more services, or more retail stores downtown, or more street paving, or more recruiting of new businesses, or more parking, or more festivals…you get the idea. The fact is, we (your public employees) are proud that you look to us to do the things that make Kent a special place, but like everything in life, these things take money. And in the case of the City, 90% of our tax revenues come from jobs in Kent — which means that people that work in Kent pay 90% of the costs of the services used by people that live in Kent. That’s why jobs in Kent are so important to the quality of life everyone who lives here gets to enjoy. The bad news is that the jobs that pay for City services are down 15% while the number of homes that use City services are up 15%. Financially, that’s a worst case scenario for City services.
We’ve spent a lot of time twisting and turning our finances inside and out looking for a way out of the hole we’re in, but really the answer is quite simple: More Jobs in Kent. It’s all about the jobs and every job counts.
The structure of City taxes is such that people that work in Kent provide 90% of the revenues needed to pay for the services that people that live in Kent count on. That’s why I say jobs don’t do City services, jobs make City services possible.
So if you think about that for minute, you’ll realize that people that work in Kent but don’t live here are subsidizing 90% of the services that people who live here depend on. Or look at it this way, people that live in Kent but work somewhere else are only paying 10% towards the services they receive. For people that live here it’s a great deal — as long as their are plenty of jobs here to pay for what we need.
And therein lies the problem. Kent has lost jobs — a lot of jobs. Today we have 15% less jobs than were here in 1990. To make matters worse, the number of households that need City services has gone up 15%. That’s a 30% swing to the negative when it comes to financing City services. In real dollars that’s a $3 million loss.
If we understand that houses consume what jobs make possible, it becomes obvious that the way out of our dilemma is to create more jobs. More jobs means more services for Kent residents, more money for parking garages, more money to recruit retail stores, and more money to hold festivals in Kent. With more jobs, everyone wins.
The million dollar question (literally and figuratively) is what can we do to create more jobs here in Kent. After all, the City can certainly persuade, cajole, entice and encourage new retail stores, restaurants, etc., to locate in Kent — but the truth is, those are business decisions that are really made outside the control of the City. Those are business people running their numbers and calculating whether Kent is worth their investment.
So really, this about all of us figuring out how to make sure Kent is worth that investment. I’ve lived in places that had “buy local” campaigns to remind people that every penny they spend on products and services in their community help keep dollars in the community to support city services. That’s true here as well, but I’d extend that further to say “work local.”
If you work or live in Kent, the City needs your help to bring jobs back to Kent. Who do you know that is thinking of expanding or relocating? Who do you think would do well in Kent? Let us know and then help us persuade, cajole, entice and encourage them to join us here in Kent.
Because every job matters.