Ah yes, the famous theme from the 1992 Presidential Campaign between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, coined by James Carville. Hard to believe it’s been 23 years ago, but the message still plays well for most any private company CEO or an elected leader overseeing a city, county or state budget.
We must pay attention to parks, the arts, streets, water, sewer, public safety, etc., but the bottom line is how do you pay for all the pieces? How do we keep meeting the quality of life expectations the citizens of the community have and want, and where does the revenue come from?
In case you haven’t noticed, we at the city have not asked you to consider a tax increase while I have been in office. The reason of course is we made very deep cuts in the budget in the 2012-13 budget process, including losing 12 staff positions, 4 percent across-the-board departmental cuts, renegotiating a staff health care package and a variety of other reductions. No fun, but necessary.
With those cuts, an improving economy and our efforts in economic development, we have come roaring back! Last year we had a strong rebound in sales tax, property values rebounded, home sales were brisk and new home and commercial construction were booming. The even better news is our revenue stream has improved yet again through May of this year.
Our downtown and waterfront have new energy and a sense of vitality which I have not seen in years… probably ever!
Highway 99 has made great progress with new businesses being added, a flourishing International District, the Swedish Edmonds expansion, busy car dealerships and the new Win-Co grocery store, which will be opening soon.
Westgate continues to thrive. A new Starbuck’s is under construction, and the council’s recent zoning changes in that area will allow a new and different look to the area.
Right now, things are looking strong for next year.
All of this is great news, right? You bet it is, so celebrate!
But now, a word of caution; the current economic expansion will not be endless. The ongoing dilemma I continue to stress, and worry about, is we must continue to seek new ways to generate revenue. Our city of 40,000 is more or less completely built out. We do not have “big box” stores or shopping malls, which generate substantial sales tax income. We have a fabulous city; the quality of life, the people who reside and work here, the schools, the port… the list is long!
As expenses rise over time, where does the long-term revenue come from to balance the expenses we know will happen? (I know with the previous sentence I will generate the comments along the line of “I smell a tax hike coming.”) Yes, I suppose a tax increase is a way to generate new revenue, but I’m not interested in new taxes now! The other option is to keep our local businesses healthy and find creative solutions to expand our economy, thus generating additional revenue.
Challenges indeed, but for now, let’s enjoy the many celebrations we will have this summer; the 4th of July, A Taste of Edmonds, the Edmonds Classic Car Show and the 125 Anniversary celebration of the founding of our city. Oh yes, and celebrate the arts by enjoying the annual Edmonds Arts Festival this weekend!
— By Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling