More spending proposed with brightening economy

By Paul Archipley | Oct 24, 2013

A brighter economic outlook, coupled with ongoing volatility, serve as background for Edmonds City Councilmembers as they begin plowing through the administration’s 2014 budget proposal.

On Tuesday, department heads began the first of two presentations outlining how they fared this year and what their proposals are for 2014.

The public is welcome to comment at any of the sessions, although the posted public hearing will take place on Nov. 4, with possible budget adoption on Nov. 19.

Presentations on Tuesday included budget proposals for the following departments: Municipal Court; City Clerk; Mayor’s Office; City Council; Human Resources; Economic Development; Finance & Information Services; Nondepartmental; Development Services; and Parks.

Presenting at the Oct. 29 work session will be: Police; Public Works Utilities; Public Works Roads; and Public Works Administration, Facilities Maintenance, ER&R & Engineering.

Finance Director Roger Neumaier said that tough decisions to live within available resources in recent years, coupled with a stabilizing economy, have resulted in revenue increases that will help restore positions and programs that had been eliminated.

“The Puget Sound economy is one of the healthiest in the country,” Neumaier said.

Home values are increasing, and sales have rebounded, he said, adding this caveat:

“It’s still possible to have economic volatility. It has been increasing in our lifetime, and I think we need to get used to it.

“That being said, stability with moderate growth is what we’ve been seeing, and that looks pretty attractive.”

Still, the $89 million budget proposal is based on an optimistic outlook, enabling department heads to ask for one-time purchases, added staff and/or increases in programs and services.

Proposed one-time costs discussed Tuesday included:

• $35,000 for software and hardware systems for Information Services to secure the City’s computer network from system failures, hackers or viruses;

• $65,000 for Community Services to hire a consultant for one year to assist in developing publicity options for the City’s arts and tourism industries;

• $45,000 for Parks to hire three seasonal laborers for the summer months, and $16,000 to buy new trash cans for the downtown area;

• $600,000 put into reserves for major capital projects.

Some department heads also asked for increased staffing:

• Human Resources needs a part-time support employee at a cost of about $25,000 per year;

• Information Services would like to expand a part-time IT employee to full time at an increased cost of about $33,800 per year;

• Development Services needs to hire a Plan Check/Inspector to help with growing permit applications at a cost of about $68,000 per year. Interim Development Services Director Rob Chave said the number of building permit applications in 2013 are at an all-time high ;

• And Development Services needs to hire a permanent director – a move the council has already approved – at a cost of about $178,000 per year.

Other one-time and ongoing budget expenditures will be presented at the next council work session.

An ongoing theme has been City staff’s ability to do more with less during the past several years.

Mayor Dave Earling touched on that when he told the council Tuesday, “I am amazed by the quality of folks we have in the City.

“Putting together this budget has been an incredibly positive experience.”

Despite the cautiously optimistic outlook for the local economy, council watcher Roger Hertrich urged city officials to tread carefully in their budget decisions.

“It seems like we have quite a bit of money coming in, and we look for ways to spend it,” Hertrich said. “I would suggest the City be a little more conservative.”

Comments (1)
Posted by: john dolan | Oct 30, 2013 07:10

Be careful who you vote for in the next city council elections. There are forces (ie. developers, real estate agents, elected officials, attorneys) out there that do not have the city's best interests in mind regarding development. They could care less. These people should not be dictating city  policy regarding building heights, etc. The wishes and desires of the people should be first and foremost.

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