The Edmonds City Council passed its version of the 2011 city budget Tuesday night, and the next step is a signature by Mayor Mike Cooper. The vote was 6-1, with Councilmember D.J. Wilson voting no. Wilson called the budget “irresponsible” because it doesn’t fund important initiatives and isn’t sustainable long term.
Some of Wilson’s fellow councilmembers admitted they also were less than thrilled with the final product, but they believed it was the best the city could do in lean economic times.
“While there are many things I’m not pleased with, overall I think the staff and mayor’s office have put together a very lean budget as they have over the years,” said Councilmember Strom Peterson.
Councilmember Diane Buckshnis, appointed late last year to replace the late Councilmember Peggy Pritchard Olson, said she was “reluctantly” supporting the budget despite her inability to get clarification and information from the city’s finance department. “Our questions, comments and requests have been ignored,” Buckshnis said.
In a milestone of sorts, Councilmember Lora Petso noted that she also had some misgivings about approving the budget “although I’m quite excited because it might be the first city budget I’ve ever voted for,” she said.
Now it’s up to the mayor to decide whether to accept the council’s amendments and sign the nearly $3-million budget into law, or to call the council back on Dec. 28 for further tweaking before the year’s end.
In other action, the council:
– Unanimously approved a resolution to name the Edmonds Library building in honor of Pritchard Olson, who passed away Nov. 9, 2009 after battling amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In introducing the resolution, Peterson said the naming would be a perfect tribute to Pritchard Olson, who was an avid reader and two-time president of the Friends of the Edmonds Library.
-Agreed 7-0 to approve two new health insurance plans for city staff and elected officials. Human Resources Director Debi Humann told council that the new plans were chosen following a year-long study by an employee health benefits committee, and include two options: Health First and Group Health. The new options will cost the city less than it would have spent on its current health insurance plans.
-Unanimously approved an amendment to the Municipal Employees’ Benefit Trust Plan to ensure that the employee contribution rates, which mirror Social Security contributions, remain the same despite a federal reduction in Social Security rates.
-Adopted by a 5-2 vote (Wilson and Michael Plunkett voting no) amendments to 2010 city Comprehensive Plan elements involving water, storm and surface water, street trees and the capital facilities plan.
-Discussed the next steps for initiating a review of the city’s compensation policy for non-represented employees. The idea, said Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, is to ensure that Edmonds’ 40 non-union employees are being paid fairly compared to their peers in other municipalities. “I’m interested to see if we are below market,” she said.”Certainly when times turn around, we need to pay people what they are worth.”