City of Edmonds Proposition 1

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City of Edmonds
Proposition No. 1
Levy to Help Maintain Current Levels of Service in Public Safety, Parks, and Other City Services

The Edmonds City Council has passed Ordinance No. 3848 to place before the voters property taxes to help maintain current levels of service in public safety, parks, and other city services.

To help maintain service levels in public safety, parks, and other city services, this proposition would authorize an increase in the regular property tax rate for collection in 2012 of 0.17256368 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, for a total regular property tax rate (if only this proposition passes) of 1.82823515 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. The 2012 levy amount would become the basis upon which levy increases would be computed for 2013 and 2014.

Should this proposition be approved?

Yes__

No __

Explanatory Statement:

Without voter approval, the City of Edmonds can increase the amount of regular property taxes it collects by only 1% (approximately) each year. This limit is called the “levy lid.” Under this limit, in 2012, Edmonds can collect regular property taxes at a rate of approximately $1.66 per $1,000 of assessed valuation without voter approval.

With voter approval, this proposition would authorize the City of Edmonds to collect approximately $1,000,000 over the levy lid for each of three years (2012-2014). This additional revenue would be used to help maintain current levels of service in public safety, parks, and other city services. If only this proposition passes (Propositions 2 and 3 would increase the levy lid for other purposes), the City of Edmonds will be allowed to increase the regular property tax rate in 2012 by approximately 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation. For example, this proposition would increase the regular property tax bill on a $375,000 home by approximately $65 in 2012.

For regular property taxes collected after 2014, the maximum tax levy would be determined as if this proposition had not been approved.

Pro Statement:

Edmonds is a special community and it is up to us, the people, to support and protect the things that make Edmonds a wonderful place to live. This levy will support our police and firefighters, keep our parks safe and clean, and support the important day-to-day operations of city government.

Over the last decade, Edmonds has been a leader in driving economic development and improving government efficiency. The city has reduced its budget through staff reductions, good planning, and smart partnerships. Despite having more people to serve, we have fewer police staff than we did 10 years ago and we saved millions in Fire service costs by partnering with Fire District 1. Edmonds has fewer employees per-capita than any comparable city, yet still delivers services of unparalleled quality.

Despite these efforts, revenues cannot keep up with the pace of inflation. This limited three year, $1,000,000 Levy will cost the average homeowner $4.90 a month ($375,000 average home value).

Without a levy we will see cuts in these vital city services; services that support our quality of life.

It is difficult in tough economic times to voluntarily increase our property taxes. But we have to ask ourselves: What kind of city do we want? What value do we put on safety and parks? What is our responsibility in supporting a vibrant, safe, and viable city with a strong sense of community?

We urge you to vote for the Edmonds City Services Levy and support Edmonds.

Vote “Yes” on Proposition 1.

Pro committee members:

Dave Page, Strom Peterson, Kelly Schwarting

Con Statement

This levy is bad policy. It doesn’t solve the short-term financial problems at the City. Nor does it address long-term structural problems. Moreover, if this passes, the City Council will still be forced to consider layoffs as early as 2012.

Here are the facts.

1. This doesn’t solve the short-term problem. Current projections show we need $1.75 million in revenue per year just to maintain basic city services over the next 5 years. This levy is only $1 million over three years. That means layoffs will still be needed in the years ahead.

2. This doesn’t solve the long-term problem. The City’s economic forecast shows revenues growing at an average rate of 1.3% over the next four years. It shows expenditures growing between 2.3 and 3.2% annually over the same period. This is a broken model. As long as your expenditures grow at a larger percentage than your revenues, the shortfall will continue to grow over time.

3. As worded, this levy does nothing to shore up public safety funding. In the last 3 years alone, the City has cut 2 uniformed police officers, the crime prevention unit, the school resource officer, and the DARE program. If this levy passes, none of those cuts are restored. In fact, more will be on the horizon.

Council members Wilson, Plunkett, and Petso all oppose this levy – a diverse base of opposition that demonstrates the depth of concern on the matter.

Please oppose this levy. Tell the City Council they must do better.

Con committee members:

Harry Gatjens, DJ Wilson

Rebuttal against:

This levy will stop immediate cuts to parks, police, and essential city services. This measure gives us time to promote economic development and continue to identify efficiencies without sacrificing our community identity. This is the responsible way to address long-term financial problems.

We can’t restore cuts already made but we can continue to keep our parks open and streets safe. Majority consensus was forged for this levy to prevent more drastic measures in 2012/13.

Rebuttal for:

Proponents cite the fire and police departments as their reason to approve this measure. In fact, this levy is not targeted to those departments. These dollars are completely unrestricted.

This levy simply fails to solve either short run or long run problems. It provides no accountability to voters. Like the $60 car tab fee last year, this is an ill-thought out levy that should be turned down.

Please vote no on this levy.

14 COMMENTS

  1. Until the city gets their ‘books’ in order and policies updated, I will not support any levy. Besides, with the recent union contracts signed, city employees received pay increases and an improved health benefit package while most other cities and state employees had pay cuts, health ins. cuts and increased copays and insurance premiums. (besides employee lay offs). And the elderly on social security have not had any cost of living increase for the past 2 years In this economic climate, the worst in decades, I would think that at least the city would freeze current wages etc., instead of going to the taxpayers for more money. These levies, the 3 of them, is a substantial increase in our property taxes and it won’t solve the problem!!! There is no indication that this money will be used for what it states it will be used for as stated in the article. There is a spending problem that no one wants to address. There definitely needs to be a change in city government!!

  2. So far I’m still confused about what EXACTLY will go away if this levy is not passed. both pro and con statements are so general that I’m having a difficult time making a decision about the levy issue. The statement: “This additional revenue would be used to help maintain current levels of service in public safety, parks, and other city services.” is very general. Neither pro nor con have built a persuasive enough case to help me determine my vote.

    What does it mean REALLY? If it’s staff cuts, what positions will be eliminated? Does this mean parks will not be mowed or does it mean closing them down? and if not, which specific parks services will no longer happen? What “other city services” specifically will no longer function? What does “public safety” mean? Less police on the streets? Or no response to police calls??

    How might the public actually suffer? And how can we as Edmonds residents be mobilized and/or engaged in activities to be more responsible citizens in supporting our city functioning?

    My taxes would increase approximately $55.25. For me it’s not about the amount so much as understanding both the financial and service impacts on residents. Where can I go for the facts to better understand the issues related to the levy?

    Carol Schillios
    Fabric of Life Foundation

  3. Carol:

    You’ve presented a lot of good questions for which there currently aren’t many answers. Mayor Cooper is presenting his preliminary budget for 2012 at next Tuesday’s city council meeting. The budget will provide an update of the city’s financial situation, so at least some of your questions will likely get answered. More clarity will come at the October 18th meeting when city council is scheduled to discuss the budget. So there’s lots of time to learn more before you must vote.

  4. There will also be a discussion of all 3 levies on Oct 17th in the Council Chambers sponsored by My Edmonds News. There will be members from the Pro and Con Teams for each levy. The Con statement above are not accurate or mis leading. The mayor had a series of meetings with several citizens to discuss possible budget additions and and cuts. Edmonds is currently planning to underrun the 2011 budget even after the bond payment for the Edmonds Center for the Arts. With that underrun and other proposed restructured payments it is likely the mayor will propose adding some of the jobs that have been previously authorized but not filled. The key error in the Con position is that if this GF levy passes it will allow a status quo for the existing headcounts over the next 3 years and will be sufficient to not force further layoffs.

  5. I’m not voting for any City Levies until the City can show me that its not playing with my money. the last straw that broke this Democrat, tax lover’s back was the expenditure of 70K on the Old Milltown Park. When does not have money to spend, it should only be paying for needs; not wants.

    Let me give you a real life example. I just had knee surgery which gave me a lot of unexpected bills. I’d like to be able to buy a Bonneville Triumph but, instead I am paying for my surgery. Could I get credit to buy my Triumph? Yes. But, I’m taking the responsible path. I’ll buy my triumph next year.

  6. Please read above as:

    I’m not voting for any City Levies until the City can show me that it is not playing with my money. The last straw that broke this Democrat, tax lover’s back was the expenditure of 70K on the Old Milltown Park. When the City does not have money to spend, it should only be paying for needs; not wants.

  7. I don’t think the surgery analogy applies because the city did not borrow any money.

    Also, I thought the main purpose of finishing the park was economic development, not pure recreation (like the Triumph). I did a rough analysis here.

    I’m clearly not a finance expert, but it looks to me like there’s a valid argument that the economic benefits (at least in the long term) justify the costs. We have a lot of vacant real estate near the park that could be generating tax revenue.

  8. My point, Joe, although perhaps not well conveyed in my analogy, is that the Counsel decides to spend 70K for a park that has been sitting empty for a while. And, I do not believe that park will bring in business to the empty old milltown. I believe those empty sites are there because the bank refuses to negotiate lower lease prices. Of course, now that the money is spent, I hope that I am wrong.

    And, this is not the first time the council has tried to spend money on a whim. remember the infamous skipper’s property. I am not convinced the Council uses my money wisely and I am not ready to raise their allowance.

    I’m still not voting for the levies.

  9. Hi Priya, can I politely ask why the expenditure of 70K on the Old Milltown Park was the final straw? The Haines Wharf situation seems so much larger and much more significant.

    Are you aware that the City has investigated the employment of REET 2 funds to purchase real property needed for the Haines Wharf project? The City has concluded that REET 2 funds should not have been used to purchase Real Estate for the park and the current City Staff has asked for a transfer of $40,750 from the general fund to make Fund 125 whole again. If one does not support the upcoming City levies related to past City conduct, this seems like a better reason for such a stance, in my opinion.

    I applaud current staff for addressing this issue and taking steps to correct it. It builds my confidence that they are motivated to do the right thing.

    However, I am just curious why some citizens seem more concerned with Old Milltown than Haines Wharf when it can also be argued that Old Milltown provides some economic benefit and I assume the laws and procedures related to the purchase were properly followed. Thanks.

  10. Pryia, The Street Overlay levy can only be used for Street Overlay work. Such work has not been done using Edmonds money since 2008 and now where in the proposed 2012 budget is Steet Overlay funded. So vote no if you do not want to do that work or vote yes if you do. Council seems to have set this one up as a “let the people decide” I do not see any “playing with money” on this levy. It looks pretty simple, black top, yes or no. And if you vote yes we will buy some backtop, and if you vote no we will not. Hard to find the “playing with money” issue on that levy.

  11. Pryia, I know this is not about Levy 1 but you brought up that you would not be vorting for any levy so does that open the door to adding a comment about any of the other levies?? If no then I am sorry but if yes then here goes. The Street Overlay levy can only be used for Street Overlay work. Such work has not been done using Edmonds money since 2008 and now where in the proposed 2012 budget is Steet Overlay funded. So vote no if you do not want to do that work or vote yes if you do. Council seems to have set this one up as a “let the people decide” I do not see any “playing with money” on this levy. It looks pretty simple, black top, yes or no. And if you vote yes we will buy some backtop, and if you vote no we will not. Hard to find the “playing with money” issue on that levy.

    Hopefully in the comming weeks we will have a place to talk about all 3 levies and the individual merits of each. The Pro and Con statements are available for each and can be posted before the voters pamphlet is published. MEN will be sponsoring a discussion of all 3 levies in Council chambers on Oct 17.

  12. Priya, one thing I forgot to add is that as a supporter of Parks Capital Improvement Projects, I believe the REET 2 finding is very significant. Furthermore, it provides an example that the Haines Wharf investigation is about more than just Change Orders.

    I believe this one finding by itself provides a level of justification for the investigation into Haines Wharf. $40,785 is a significant amount of money better spent on a Parks Capital Improvement project than to purchase land for a park in a slide prone area. Sadly, it appears the quality of the land purchased would prove to be partially responsible for the large change orders and pending Equitable Adjustments of over $700,000. The true cost to the taxpayer related to this land purchased for $40,785 appears to be much more than $40,785.

    Examples of Parks Capital Improvement projects include:

    Interurban Trail construction through the Lake Ballinger Area.

    Replacement of Play Structures at City Park.

    Re-plastering Yost Pool.

    Edmonds Marsh/Hatchery Improvements.

  13. All:

    They voted for the park assuming they would get money from another grant. As far as I know, that grant has not come in. But, nonetheless, in a time where people are struggle to pay their everyday bills I find it OFFENSIVE that the Council would move money like this. And, this was on top of the infamous Skipper’s fiasco. I get that the town needs the levies but, I want Council to show me that it will act prudently with the Levy money and not just spend it on some project when they get a hair up their ass.

    All of you have studied the numbers more than me. I will take your word on it. However, I want Council to prove to me that it has some ambition to be judicious.

    Have to go back to work now. See ya all later.

  14. To Priya (comment #8):
    We agree that Council has not made clear what they would do with the money if Prop 1 passed. In fairness, none of their challengers have provided any useful clues either. Like you, I’ll be voting against Prop 1.

    To Darrol (comment #11):
    I couldn’t agree more. The street overlay levy is the one that will save us money by getting street overlays done before the sub-pavement fails and costs a lot more.

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