The Edmonds City Council Tuesday night wasn’t able to pass the city’s proposed mid-year budget amendment — a source of recent controversy — but Council President Steve Bernheim said he will bring it back for reconsideration at next week’s meeting.
Tuesday’s vote on the proposed budget adjustment, made mid-year to bring the beginning budget balances into line with the actual position, resulted in a 3-3 tie (Councilmembers Bernheim, D.J. Wilson and Strom Peterson voting yes and Michael Plunkett, Lora Petso and Diane Buckshnis no, with Adrienne Fraley-Monillas absent). Still at issue were questions about reconciling the numbers, but Bernheim pledged that the council would get answers prior to next Tuesday.
However, the ongoing council frustration at being unable to get timely budget information resulted in a decision later in the meeting to pursue the hiring of a temporary, part-time budget analyst to assist the council in getting the answers they need to their budget questions, without putting undue burden on an already overworked city finance staff members.
“We are driving our finance staff crazy. It’s frustrating for us. It’s frustrating for them,” Wilson said. Plunkett concurred, noting that “it would be a real relief” for the council to have continual access to a budget expert without feeling as if they were taking someone away from other important work.
By a vote of 5-1 (Bernheim voting no), the council approved efforts to seek a temporary analyst to assist the council during the upcoming budget discussions, at an estimated cost range of $24,000-$32,000 for two months.
In other action, the Council:
-Approved a $15,000 contract to partner with Climate Solutions’ New Energy Cities program. The contract would pay for a one-and-a-half-day workshop to discuss how Edmonds can become a leader in new energy technology and infrastructure.
-Extended by one year the sunset date for the Citizens Economic Development Commission.
-Heard a report on the Mayor Mike Cooper’s online Community Satisfaction Survey, which was completed by 212 people in the past few weeks. There were several categories of results presented, and My Edmonds News will link to those once they are posted on the City’s website, likely by tomorrow.
At the end of the Council meeting, Cooper took an opportunity to apologize for the heated exchange he had with some councilmembers at the Sept. 21 meeting, noting that he let his Irish temper get the best of him.
Another council meeting and another lost opportunity for Mayor Cooper to provide long overdue answers to two questions:
1)0N SEPT 1ST I SENT AN EMAIL TO MR. HINES ASKING HIM TO EXPLAIN WHY HIS BUDGET WORKSHOP ESTIMATE FOR 2010 GENERAL FUND REVENUE IS MORE THAN $2 MILLION ABOVE THE PRIOR OUTLOOK PROVIDED IN JUNE. I DID NOT HEAR ANYTHING BACK FROM HIM, SO ON SEPT 8TH I SENT THE QUESTION TO MAYOR COOPER AND COPIED MR. HINES. STILL NO RESPONSE FROM EITHER ONE.
2)ON AUG. 28TH MAYOR COOPER PROMISED AN EXPLANATION, WITHIN THE NEXT COUPLE OF WEEKS, AS TO WHY THE HEARING EXAMINER FIRM WAS NOT INTERESTED IN RE-NEWING ITS CONTRACT WITH OUR CITY. CITIZENS NEED TO KNOW WHY SUCH A COMPETENT FIRM DOES NOT WANT TO CONTINUE WORKING FOR OUR CITY.
It’s a pity that council must hire an analyst to get the answers that they need. In 2008 the previous finance director produced a two-year budget and answered council member questions in a timely manner. This year only a one-year budget is being produced and the finance department has the same size staff as two years ago. The only difference is that the small information services department previously reported to the Mayor and not to the finance director as it now does. It seems like this new expense for an anslyst could be prevented if information services went back to reporting to the Mayor.
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