By Diane Buckshnis
In addition to being a participant of the 2009 Levy Committee, I spent months with the 2010 Levy Committee, providing them with my research and listening to their findings. The committee did a significant amount of research encompassing expenditures, revenues, financial management/reporting and compliance to our financial ordinance. It also met with other cities’ financial officers, as well as the Superintendent of the Edmonds School District, to gain insight regarding the requisites to pass a voter-approved levy.
While doing research for our financial reporting policy, I spent months investigating other cities’ financial statements and Governmental Financial Officer Association policies and meeting with other finance officers from neighboring cities. As I have stated on many occasions, my largest concern has been that the public is not afforded the financial clarity found in other cities, which would be a road map as to why a levy is needed. I am hopeful that eventually the administration will comply with the financial ordinance that was unanimously approved by the Edmonds City Council in April 2010.
Next year, according to the City’s financial forecast (for which supporting information has been requested), our general fund projections will not meet the one-month reserve and it is off (down) $600,000. That number does not include a $1.9-million “catastrophic reserve” and a $1.3-million reserve potentially targeted to changing health insurance to self-insurance. For this reason, the levy committee, mayor and two councilmembers recommended a $1 million general fund levy. Since council is still engaged in labor negotiation, certain council members are not supportive of this type of levy.
The levy committee recommended individual targeted levies and I concur with this idea. This approach is fair and allows citizens the right to participate in the budgetary process; it acknowledges the personal economic situation of many and the reluctance of some to support additional taxes.
Despite what political strategists fear when utilizing a multiple levy proposal — that all will fail — I believe if levy proposals are clearly and concisely defined and provided to the voters in November in a simple and straightforward format, some, if not all, will pass. We also need to consider the possibility that constituents may not have the appetite for a larger, more broadly defined, general fund levy. Can the political strategists guarantee that this type of levy will pass?
The tax increase for these propositions is based on a $375,000 property tax appraised value. The levies will be for three years and tied to the consumer price index (CPI), which was used by the City of Shoreline. Although more specific details will be provided by the respective department directors, the breakdown of the four proposals is provided:
Proposal 1 is $700,000 for street overlays and it is approximately one half of what is needed yearly. It is basic blacktop and will cost the taxpayer $41 a year or $3.39/month.
Proposal 2 is $400,000 for city building deferred maintenance and will cost the taxpayer $23 a year or $1.94/month. This proposal is shy of estimations, but with the current economy, costs to upgrade should be less expensive. A good example was the restoration of the Edmonds Museum, which was budgeted at $100,000 and came in at $78,000.
Proposition 3 is $300,000 for parks upgrades and deferred maintenance; passing this proposal will cost the taxpayer $17 a year and will cost the taxpayer $1.45/month.
Proposition 4 is $1 million representing half of the deficit of our obligation to Fire District One. Fire District 1 can be separated from the general fund so that citizens can see that levy money dedicated to this expense. Approving this proposal will cost the citizens $58 a year or $4.84/month.
If all proposals were to pass, it would cost the taxpayer approximately $11.63 a month or about $140 a year. Councilmember Petso has said she will be “sharpening my pencil” as she would like to get the yearly cost down to $100 a year…so stay tuned.