Edmonds councilmembers get early look at $1.5 million in proposed budget cuts
Correcting Rob Chave’s title and expanding on his budget-cutting ideas.
Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling will be delivering a proposed budget to the Edmonds City Council in mid-October, and councilmembers on Tuesday night got a preview of what might be on the table, including cuts to police, reductions in parks, recreation and arts programs, and possible elimination of the passport service currently offered through the municipal court.
The council also welcomed its newest student representative, Edmonds-Woodway High School senior Yaelle Kimmelman.
While the city is facing a $1.5 million budget deficit, “the budget the council will see on Oct. 16 will include no new taxes or fees,” City Finance Director Shawn Hunstock said Tuesday. However, councilmembers can expect a proposal from the Public Works Department to increase wastewater rates, which would fund the cost of needed repairs to the city’s aging sewer lines. along with a few other “decision packages” — basically spending proposals — from various departments.
According to Hunstock, the budget proposal will address the shortfall in three ways:
- An across-the-board cut of approximately $850,000 from all city departments.
- A reduction is staffing through the Mayor’s Voluntary Separation Incentive Program, estimated to save at least $400,000.
- Projected potential savings of at least $250,000 on the city’s portion of health insurance premium costs.
Each city department head took their turn before the council, not only explaining how they would cut their respective budgets to meet Earling’s goal of covering the $1.5 million shortfall but also reminding councilmembers of their department’s achievements and responsibilities.
Highlights of those presentations:
- Hunstock said the Finance Department will rely more on city staff — rather than outside companies — to conduct sales tax auditing work, and will also reduce supply and travel expenses.
- City Clerk Sandy Chase plans to reduce advertising, rely more on online communication and cut professional training and travel, but she noted that her department has been severely impacted in recent years by an increasing number of public records requests and the related management of email, electronic and paper records. In fact, the department had to hire a half-time public disclosure/records management specialist earlier this year to assist with public records inquiries.
- Police Chief Al Compaan proposes eliminating four commissioned police officers from his department, including vacant assistant chief and patrol officer positions as well as a patrol officer and sergeant position through the voluntary separation program.
- Public Works Director Phil Williams plans to reduce the department’s executive assistant position to 80 percent (not working on Fridays); to cut his engineering staff from three people to two and seek more energy cost savings, including the conversion of the Public Works 17-vehicle fleet to propane fuel (saving approximately $60,000 annually).
- Carrie Hite, who oversees Human Resources and the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department, broke out her planned savings this way: For HR, reductions in supplies, professional services (including the elimination of city-wide flu shots), employee tuition reimbursement and awards, plus a shift from print to online advertising. For parks and recreation, a reduction in seasonal labor and park/field irrigation, plus cutting 1.5 full-time equivalent positions from Frances Anderson staff and reducing the recreation office hours. For cultural services, eliminating one of the summer concerts, cutting the scholarship program, limiting summer beach patrols and closing the visitors station. Hite also mentioned two programs that will require additional funding: the city-owned cemetery and Yost Pool.
- Rob Chave, Planning Manager/Acting Development Services Director, said one result of budget cuts planned in his department is that he will be able to staff and take minutes at one Edmonds Planning Board meeting per month instead of two, or find other ways to cut costs, such as posting audio recordings online, and only doing a summary of written minutes.
- City Municipal Court Judge Doug Fair said that among the cuts he is considering would be the reduction or elimination of passport service, plus a variety of other services now provided by the court, from probation on theft and drug cases to periodic review of probation cases.
In other action Tuesday, the council voted unanimously to follow the recommendation of the city’s compensation consultants to put all non-represented employees on a step system. As a result, all employees will have their salary “bumped” to the next higher step, with some employees who are already close to the next step receiving a small increase and those further below the next step receiving a larger increase. (Councilmember Frank Yamamoto, who is recovering from heart surgery, called in to cast his vote on this matter.)
This change will cost about $65,000, but the city’s budget had already included a total of $88,000 to cover salary increases this year. Councilmembers decided to spend the remaining $23,000 by making a one-time payment — rather than a salary adjustment to all the employees — based upon their individual salary.