Mayor’s 2018 budget includes more staff, roadwork

Strong economy means city should continue to remain resilient
By Brian Soergel | Oct 12, 2017

Edmonds residents, get ready for a plethora of discussion about money, about who wants what, what is going right, what is going wrong, and where we’re heading.

Welcome to the annual budget process, a back-and-forth between city officials and elected councilmembers taking place in cities large and small everywhere.

In Edmonds, the 2018 budget process started in late spring and began its public airing Tuesday when Mayor Dave Earling addressed councilmembers and the public with his preliminary budget message.

With condos sprouting like weeds, home prices and rents soaring to new records, and thousands of newcomers seemingly discovering Edmonds every week, it’s no surprise that Earling’s money message was mostly upbeat and positive.

“I must tell you, as I have the previous couple of years, our economic prospect in Edmonds continues to be strong, and once again improving,” he said. “With the continued strong city, regional and national economy, along with key strategic decisions we have made, our revenues continue to grow.”

The 2017 operating revenues are projected to be 0.8 percent higher than 2016 actual revenues, Earling said, and 2018 revenues are projected to be 0.5 percent higher than projected 2017 revenues. (Although those numbers were 1.4 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively, in last year’s address.)

Earling said that one example of the city’s continued strong economy is, as of the end of September, Edmonds is $362,000 ahead of its record sales tax revenue of 2016, with much of the improvement coming from the construction trade, automobile sales on Highway 99 and spending through the city’s ever-expanding restaurant scene.

Another example: Over the past three years, the city has added more than $108.9 million in assessed value in new home and commercial construction, with another $38 million-plus projected for 2018.

“If we look across our community, it is obvious the financial health of Edmonds is strong,” Earling said. “Our business community is alive and vibrant. Our real estate market and construction continues to show record strength, and unemployment is low. And with the expected growth of the Puget Sound region, we know our chances for 2018, barring some major national or international incident, should remain resilient.”

As usual, the mayor did throw some caution into his speech.

“We must remember we are in the ninth year of sustained economic recovery since the 2008 recession. All of us need to bear in mind that we will again hit a bump in the road at some point, and we need to prepare for it. We also need to remember, while revenues continue strong, our expenses continue to grow.”

As expenses grow, so too must staff, Earling said.

“As most of us know, commercial and residential construction has increased dramatically the past two or three years. That, and with the city's own projects, keeps planning, engineering and building inspectors on the second floor buried. Their workload is extraordinary. So, continuing last year’s hiring trend, we will again focus on our current staffing needs. This budget adds four new staff members.”

@Keeping up with infrastructure@

Two of the city’s major projects are the revitalization of a 2.2-mile stretch of Highway 99 and the Edmonds Street Waterfront Connector project, which will add to the staff workload. In addition, Earling has appointed a task force to develop a housing strategy to identify affordable housing options.

The mayor admitted that the city has not kept up with maintaining its roads, and for the past five years has been playing catch-up with road resurfacing to the tune of $6 million after years of neglect and inattention.

The first major decision of the 2018 budget, Earling said, is a proposal to move $760,000 in cash to the city’s contingency reserve fund. While the city is now within the recommended range for reserves at 14.4 percent, additional money will increase the fund to 16.1 percent.

“This is an important decision as it will help us withstand an economic downturn,” he said. “In addition, such a move should help our bond rating.”

The mayor’s proposed budget includes $1.5 million for the street overlay program, $530,000 for city facility improvements and maintenance (in addition to $400,000 being spent this year), and $250,000 set aside for projects of interest to the City Council.

Those numbers are all substantial increases from last year.

Said Earling: “While we’ve spent several years catching up on needed one-time expenditures, we still have some large investment needs: replacement of our antiquated telephone system; major improvements in our IT infrastructure; and replacement of the city hall elevator which, when last repaired, was done with a used part that was only available in Argentina.”

One of those investments is the city’s $10 million to $12 million renovation of Civic Field. Earling proposes $2 million to establish a fund to get the project moving.

With the submittal of the mayor's recommended 2018 budget, City Council members will begin their review and consideration of the budget and possible amendments.

There will be public hearings on the budget throughout October and November, and possibly December.

 

 

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