City of Edmonds budget challenges were a major theme running through the agenda items facing the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night.
For starters, the Council voted unanimously to direct Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite to issue a request for proposals to conduct a study — estimated to cost $25,000 to $30,000 — to determine the feasibility of assessing building developers a one-time impact fee to cover the capital cost of parks facilities such aquatic facilities and sports fields.
According to a presentation made by Hite prior to the council vote, 75 cites in Washington state assess park impact fees, including Mountlake Terrace, Mill Creek and Mukilteo. Determining fees is a “very complicated process,” Hite said, that includes ensuring that the developer pays a “proportionate share” of the new development, since current residents as well as future ones will use any new facility.
Fees have to be spent within six years of collection and must be used for expanded or new facilities — not to improve existing infrastructure.
Near the end of the meeting, Mayor Dave Earling presented what he called the city’s “short and long-term budget challenges,” which was very similar to a speech he delivered to the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce Feb. 23. You can see that presentation here but the bottom line is this: With sales tax collections flat and a 1 percent limit on property tax collection, the city’s ability to generate additional revenue is limited. As a result, expenses will start outpacing revenue and the city will face an estimated $800,000 shortfall next year — a shortfall that will continue to grow if action isn’t taken, either by cutting programs or personnel or finding other ways to raise revenue.
Earling added that he and his staff have developed a public awareness program aimed at involving citizens in making tough choices about the city’s budget priorities, and that program will be presented to the council next week. “We need to engage the community early and often and this is intended to be the beginning of that several-month discussion,” Earling said.
In other action, the council:
– Confirmed four new Historic Preservation Commission Members — Margaret (Meg) A. Keogh, William R. (Bill) Muller, Tim Raetzloff and Gerald W. Tays.
– Appointed citizens to fill three Tree Board vacancies — Steve Hatzenbeler, Susan Paine and Rebecca Wolfe.
– Heard Earling read a proclamation in honor of the Girl Scouts 100th Anniversary, with local Girl Scouts presenting the colors prior to the Pledge of Allegiance.
-Confirmed the Mayor’s appointment of Rob Chave as Acting Director of Development Services.
-Unanimously agreed to amend a proposed ordinance that would extend the sunset date of the city’s Economic Development Commission by four years. The final ordinance will come back to the council for approval on March 20.
One final note: During the public comment period, the council heard a request from former Edmonds Port Commissioner Marianne Zagorski to look into rumors that Edmonds City Councilmember Michael Plunkett had moved his business to Seattle and no longer resides in the City of Edmonds. “The council should consult with legal counsel to determine his eligibility” to serve on the council, Zagorski said, suggesting that the city could be at risk legally by making decisions with an ineligible councilmember. “If the council has already done so, then the legal recommendation should be shared with the citizens so we may all understand his eligibility. I request that the council look into this matter soon.”
Plunkett, who is in his fourth term, confirmed in late February that he would be announcing his intention to resign from his council seat within a month or so.
During councilmembers’ comments at the end of the meeting, Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas decried Zagorski’s request, calling it reflective of “armchair quarterback bloggers” who are making assumptions that because Plunkett moved his office to Seattle, he no longer lives in Edmonds. “To question a councilmember because they own multiple properties in various areas I think is very, very inappropriate,” Fraley-Monillas said, noting that councilmembers take an oath of office during which they swear to be “honest and true.”
When asked via email Tuesday night whether he would be following up on Zagorski’s request, Council President Strom Peterson said simply: “I will not.”