Edmonds Public Facilities District on solid ground | Guest View

By Mike Popke and David Brewster | Sep 21, 2018

Edmonds Public Facilities District (PFD), which operates the nonprofit Edmonds Center for the Arts (ECA), is on solid financial ground.

ECA brings emerging and established artists to the community and provides highly valued programing to schools, low-income groups and seniors suffering from dementia while also contributing significantly to the Edmonds economy.

To date more than 800,000 people have been served by ECA’s high-quality performing arts programs.

Edmonds PFD/ECA is not, as an article in last week’s Edmonds Beacon contends, “at risk.”

ECA has become the most significant cultural institution in south Snohomish County. In addition to its own programming, ECA is home to these local gems: Cascade Symphony Orchestra, Olympic Ballet Theatre, Sno-King Community Chorale, Edmonds Community College and Rick Steves’ Europe.

The recently completed 2017 Edmonds Arts and Culture Economic Impact Study (commissioned by the City) indicates that ECA injects $7.5 million annually into the local economy.

ECA employs 25 team members, and benefits from the extraordinary gift of more than 11,500 donated hours by over 150 local volunteers who help make ECA’s events run smoothly.

As local business owners – and as former ECA board presidents and current members of the Edmonds Public Facilities District Board – we have supported ECA through corporate sponsorships as well as our own personal philanthropic investments.

We do this because we value this essential Edmonds institution.

In 2001, Edmonds City Council created Edmonds Public Facilities District, per Washington state law, to develop a regional center that would generate economic activity and tourism. This included a rebate (not a tax increase) of .033 percent of the state’s portion of sales taxes collected within the City of Edmonds.

These funds were allocated to help finance the design, development, acquisition, construction, operation and management of the new center. The campus of the original Edmonds High School was identified as the ideal place for the center, as it would preserve this historic campus and would provide a home for ECA and for local arts groups.

In 2008, during the most significant national recession since the 1930s, sales tax revenues plummeted and could not cover the District’s debt payments as designed. Edmonds PFD/ECA was not alone in suffering from this economic downturn. More than 170,000 businesses failed, including many locally.

Per a Contingent Loan Agreement (CLA), the City agreed to provide credit support by becoming co-signers on Edmonds PFD’s 2008 bond issue. Since 2011, as recovery was slow and tax revenue shortfalls continued, the City loaned Edmonds PFD sufficient funds to make up for these sales tax revenue shortfalls so it could meet its annual bond payment obligations.

The recession was the sole reason annual bond payments could not be paid in full by Edmonds PFD on its own. There is absolutely no relation to ECA’s annual operating budget, and these loans from the City are not a subsidy as repayment in full, plus interest, is required.

We want to emphasize once again that Edmonds PFD/ECA is not “at risk.”

The organization is on solid footing now and well into the future. In 2016, the Washington state Legislature extended the enabling legislation for Public Facilities Districts. This action secures the sales tax rebate for Edmonds PFD through 2041.

This means that Edmonds PFD is assured of being able to repay all existing debt, including all loans from the City of Edmonds, with interest, on or before their final due dates.

The auditors’ recommendations from past years have been addressed and corrected, and the auditors have told ECA management repeatedly that they are very pleased with ECA’s continuing work to address recommendations in an appropriate and timely manner.

It should be noted that the most recent state audit praised Edmonds PFD/ECA management and the work that has taken place, and as a result they have shifted the accountability portion of the District’s audit from every year, to every two years beginning in FY 2019.

Like all organizations of its type, ECA relies on a blend of programming and rental revenues, along with the generous support of audience members, local businesses, foundations and individual philanthropists to break even operationally.

Without this support, Edmonds residents would not get to experience these artists in their own backyard, and ECA’s outreach work in local schools and senior centers would not be possible.

From day one, ECA has existed to entertain, inform and inspire. We look forward to continuing to bring great programming to Edmonds, to the considerable cultural and financial benefit of the City of Edmonds.

On October 1, an exciting new season begins. Please join us for a show.

Mike Popke is general sales manager at Lynnwood Honda. David Brewster is co-owner of Edmonds Bookshop.


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