2017 budget to focus on pressing needs

Police officer returning to Edmonds-Woodway
By Brian Soergel | Oct 14, 2016

When Dave Earling became Edmonds mayor in late 2011, the effects of the recession that started in 2008 meant times were lean and cutbacks ruled.

“My first budget was not much fun to assemble,” Earling told councilmembers and those in attendance at City Hall Tuesday. His presentation was the beginning of public discussion on the city’s 2017 budget. It’s a process that began in June and is scheduled to culminate with the council’s approval of a budget in late November.

This budget might be a little more fun.

Due to a stronger economy locally, Earling said that the city’s 2016 coffers continue to climb, with operating revenues projected to be 1.4 percent higher than 2015, while 2017 revenues are projected to be 0.9 percent higher than the projected 2016 revenue.

While working on his proposed budget, Earling decided more attention would need to be paid to important one-time expenditures – “catch-up issues” – and work put off due to the recession.

“I believe we need to be cautious this next year with how we prioritize spending, focusing on pressing needs,” he said

One of those needs is to address working on city-owned buildings, some of which need regular maintenance. “We have valuable assets throughout the city which need attention,” he said. “This budget sets aside $400,000 to begin that catch-up.”

The city, Earling said, will continue its street overlay program, with an additional $1.1 million in funding. In addition, the city will continue efforts to catch up on needed important infrastructure deferrals for water, sewer and stormwater programs, and will continue to seek grants for that work.

Other one-time expenditures include improvements to the city’s IT infrastructure, a housing study in Development Services to identify community housing needs, moving to a paperless court, seeking a local match for further work with the at-grade-crossing issue at the waterfront, and looking for additional dollars for sidewalks.

With what Earling called a “strong 2015 income,” the city added seven new staff positions to address depleted staff reductions from the recession. The budget includes the equivalent of four full-time new positions – one in Parks for park maintenance, two halftime positions in Development Services to handle the expanding number of planning and construction projects in the city, and two positions in the Police Department, one in Police Services.

The second police position, in cooperation with the Edmonds School District, is the reinstatement of the School Resource Officer program at Edmonds-Woodway High School after seven years without one.

“We live in volatile times,” Earling said, “and having our schools safe is an important priority for this community.”

Earling also said he will set aside $100,000 in the 2017 budget for city councilmembers’ “special projects you see as important and of great value to the community which have not been included in the budget.”

Continued strong economy

Earling said the region’s economy meant that, at the end of September, the city was $139,000 ahead of its record sales tax revenue of 2015, with much of the sales tax coming from automobile sales and construction.

Another example of continued strength: Over the past three years, Edmonds has added over $90.7 million in assessed value in new home and commercial construction, with another $39-plus million projected for 2017.

Still, Earling said there may be some dark clouds on the horizon.

“While we do have further good revenue news to report and a current strong local economy, I remind us all we are in the eighth year of what often is a 10-year recovery cycle,” he said. “Signals of a slowdown are coming from a variety of levels. Most recently, I have heard presentations from the state Office of Financial Management, as well as county and city governments, indicating many of those entities are currently challenged financially.”

Another consideration, Earling said, is the city’s contract negotiations with Snohomish County Fire District 1. “Progress is being made, but final agreement has not yet been reached,” he said. “The agreement will have financial implications for our budget.”

Earling has bright hopes for Edmonds’ future.

“We have made great financial strides these past four years in recovering from the impact of the devastating 2008 recession. Hard decisions in 2012, thoughtful planning and priorities, a recovering economy, and strategic decisions have led us to a new, revitalized, bustling, and energized community.

“Because of the work done and the improvements made over time, Edmonds has become a recognized daytime destination. It also has become an appealing place for families considering relocating, as witnessed by the number of baby carriages and strollers in the community.”

Between now and the end of the year, city departments will present their budget reviews at City Council meetings.

There will be public hearings on the budget Nov. 15 and Nov. 22.



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