As he presented his 2018 budget message to the Edmonds City Council Tuesday night, Mayor Dave Earling was upbeat about the city’s current financial picture.
Citing “the continued strong city, regional and national economy,” Earling said the city’s revenues are growing. Operating revenues for 2017 are projected to be 0.8 percent higher than 2016 actual revenues, and 2018 revenues are forecast to be 0.5 percent higher than 2017 projections, he said.
As of the end of September, the city is $362,000 ahead of 2016’s record sales tax revenue — much of that a result of improved automobile sales and the construction trade. Restaurant revenue is also increasing citywide, Earling said. During the past three years, the city has added more than $108.9 million in assessed value in new home and commercial construction, with another $38 million-plus projected for 2018.
“If we look across our community it is obvious the financial health of Edmonds is strong,” Earling said. “Our business community is alive and vibrant. Our real estate market and construction continues to show record strength, and unemployment is low. And with the expected growth in the Puget Sound region, we know our chances for 2018, barring some major national or international incident, should remain resilient.”
The budget will include four new staff members to address the city’s growing needs related to increased commercial and residential construction, along with major initiatives such as Highway 99 redevelopment and the Waterfront Access Project.
The mayor said the budget also includes $1.5 million to fund the city’s efforts to catch upon long-delayed road surfacing work, plus $530,000 for city facility improvements and maintenance. Earling said he has again earmarked additional money for special city council projects, noting that the amount has increased significantly — from $100,000 last year to $250,000 this year.
And he is proposing to take care of some major one-time infrastructure needs, such as replacing the city’s antiquated telephone system, making major improvements to the IT infrastructure and replacing the city hall elevator.
Finally, the mayor said he is setting aside $2 million to establish a fund for the Edmonds Civic Playfield renovation, to serve as leverage for obtaining additional funding from county and state grants, foundations and corporations. The entire project is estimated to cost $10 million to $12 million.
As he has done in past budget messages, the mayor included a note of caution, pointing out that the nation is in the ninth year of sustained economic recovery since the 2008 recession. “All of us need to bear in mind that we will again hit a bump in the road at some point, and we need to prepare for it,” Earling said.
To that end, the mayor is proposing that the city move $760,000 in cash into the city’s contingency reserve fund. While the city’s reserves are 14.4 percent and within the recommended range of 8 to 16 percent, the additional money will increase the fund to 16.1 percent.
“This is an important decision as it will help us withstand an economic downturn,” Earling said. “In addition, such a move should help our bond rating.”
The mayor concluded by stating that the 2018 budget “tries to maintain the balanced approach we have achieves in the past five years, balancing expenditures with revenue.”
The next step for the budget is city council review and potential amendments. The entire budget will be available on the City of Edmonds website for public review starting Wednesday, Oct. 11. Final passage is required by the end of December.