The Edmonds City Council on Tuesday night approved a 2012 budget of just under $33 million, and in the process slashed a $165,000 contingency fund and the $110,000 Human Resources Director position left vacant when Mayor Mike Cooper fired HR Director Debi Humann in September.
With the $265,000 in savings, the approved $32,981,227 budget included most of what was originally proposed by Cooper, plus some additional staff-proposed “decision packages,” ranging from an upgrade to the city’s fueling station to an electronic document management system for the City Clerk’s office.
The proposal to eliminate the HR director position came from City Councilmember Michael Plunkett and drew support from other councilmembers who agreed that the director’s estimated $11o,000 salary couldn’t be justified since the department is comprised of just two people and oversees fewer personnel given the recent transfer of all city fire department personnel to Fire District 1.
Since Humann’s firing, HR analyst Mary Ann Hardie has been serving as an interim human resources manager while Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite has taken on some of the HR director duties temporarily. City Councilmember Steve Bernheim said he believes that the HR department “does require two people. I’m just not convinced that it requires as high a level of pay as before.”
“Paying $110,000 a year for a director in a two-person department is overkill,” Bernheim said. “Cuts are not the answer to everything but I think this is one place where we can make them.” The current pay range for an HR manager is around $75,000-$80,000 while an HR analyst makes around $50,000-$60,000, Hite said.
Cooper, presiding over his last council meeting after losing to Dave Earling in the Nov. 8 election, noted that the new mayor could suggest bringing back an HR director, but would need to ask the council for additional funding. “You control the money; the mayor controls the org chart,” Cooper said.
The $165,000 contingency fund, created to cover any “miscellaneous” staff requests that came up during the year, was the other victim of council budget cutting. Cooper said the fund’s purpose was to provide “wiggle room” for unexpected needs, but councilmembers agreed that was a lower priority that other budget items.
After the budget was approved, Plunkett congratulated Cooper on his efforts to ensure that the city had a balanced budget despite challenging economic times.
The compliment was one of many accolades the outgoing mayor received from his fellow councilmembers, who also also passed a resolution — which received a standing ovation from those in attendance — thanking Cooper for his service since he was appointed July 5, 2010 to fill the remainder of Gary Haakenson’s term. You can read the entire resolution honoring Cooper here.
Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas praised the former Washington State Legislator and Snohomish County Councilmember for his sense of humor, especially during some of the council’s challenging moments. “It made it easier for us to go through the things we had to go through,” she said. Plunkett credited Cooper with restoring trust between the Council and the City’s Finance Department after ongoing council conflicts with former Finance Director Lorenzo Hines.
The council also took the following actions Tuesday night:
– In an effort to address the environmental effects of Styrofoam containers, approved by a 5-1 vote (Councilmembers Lora Petso voting against and DJ Wilson absent) a proposal by Bernheim that prohibits the City of Edmonds — and any tenants in City buildings — from purchasing or providing food in noncompostable packaging. Last year the council had considered a ban on Styrofoam take-out food containers by food service businesses, but after further study decided against it. Instead, the new law will require food service businesses “to dispose of food waste and compostable or recyclable carryout food packaging in recycle or compost bins,” if such disposal “is feasible.”
– Approved a resolution opposing a plan to run up to 18 coal trains a day through Edmonds on their way to and from Bellingham, for shipment to China.
– Appointed City Council President Strom Peterson to replace Cooper as the City’s representative to the Regional Fire Authority Planning Committee.
– Voted to support the Interstate-5 light-rail option as the preliminary preferred alternative in Sound Transit’s North Corridor Transit Environmental Impact Statement.
– Heard an update on the city’s adjusted timeline for the Strategic Plan, which was delayed until the results of the November election were known.