Mayor Mike Cooper had a brown bag lunch Tuesday with 20 or so concerned citizens who wanted to get an update on the budget and Edmonds in general.
The Mayor started out with some comments about what his “charge” was when compiling the budget. With no new immediate way to increase revenue, the Mayor said he had to be creative in not cutting city services and still keeping a balanced budget. This was accomplished by finding some “one-time” savings and also deferring some capital expenditures that seemed reasonable.
The first two questions from the audience had to do with the City’s street preservation efforts. With the failure of the TBD proposition earlier in the month, what provisions were being made to keep up on street maintenance? The mayor pointed out that there was still $580,000 going to street maintenance. This obviously isn’t sufficient to improve things above the current 80-year replacement schedule, but does allow for needed repairs. The city still needs more money to get on a better replacement cycle, but there just isn’t enough money in the budget to do this and include other service levels.
Several comments were made complimenting city staff and their continued high level of service, both in day-to-day affairs and in dealing with the looming budget limitations. Mayor Cooper pointed out that the city has been proactively anticipating the ever-tightening budget for the past 10 years. The city has reduced staff by 10 percent over that time and continues to look at innovative ways to reduce costs.
Several in the audience commented that they were concerned that despite the staff’s excellent service, it appears that they are continually being attacked. The mayor pointed out that public perception of government services and performance is universally low at this time, but if those who are attacking would study the City of Edmonds thoroughly, they would have a much greater appreciation of what the employees of the city do.
Another comment suggested that perhaps the city could gain even more efficiencies by investing more money in certain departments, such as Information Technology. Automation of utility billing, payments and other items all could save the City money while improving service to the consumer.
The crowd was generally pro-city and for the most part stated that they would support additional taxes if they felt that the City had a good strategic plan in place to ensure the monies would not be wasted. The mayor elaborated on how a good strategic plan was essential for moving the city forward in an efficient manner.
Mayor Cooper then encouraged citizens to communicate to the Council their thoughts on the budget and also visit the levy committee meetings to see what is going on.
The mayor said there would be more lunches like this one, so if you get a chance to attend one in the future, do so.
“Citizen Harry” Gatjens, a member of the Edmonds Citizens Levy Committee, reports on city government issues for My Edmonds News.