Mayor: 2011 Edmonds budget proposal aimed at preserving services, jobs

Mayor Mike Cooper on Tuesday night presented to the Edmonds City Council what he described as “a delicately balanced” 2011 budget proposal that preserves programs and jobs, but he warned that the city still needs additional revenue to ensure it can continue to sustain popular programs and services.

“If we are to continue our commitment to public safety, our flower program, senior center, swimming pool, and first class recreation program, we must act now in preparation for the foreseeable economic needs,” Cooper said.

“The first and most important step to achieve needed revenue is for all of us to make a commitment to economic development. Having a vibrant economy will increase sales tax and reduce the tax burden on homeowners,” especially given Snohomish County projections that assessed property values in Edmonds will decrease by 7.3 percent and sales tax will continue to be flat, he added.

In addition to considering a voter-approved operating levy, the council should “place every possible revenue source on the table for consideration,” Cooper said. For example, he noted that the city’s bond counsel suggested that the city can save approximately $62,000 through bond refinancing.

Among the proposals mentioned by the Mayor in his budget address:

– Transfer needed contributions for fire hydrant maintenance from the Public Safety Reserve Fund, which is the fund holding proceeds from the Edmonds Fire Department sale to Snohomish County Fire District No. 1.

– Suspend the general fund contribution to the vehicle replacement fund, otherwise known as the 511 B Fund, during 2011. Cooper said the city can make all of the 2011 expenditures from the fund, including police cars and computers for police vehicles, and still have a remaining fund balance of $3.8 million by the end of 2011.

“Making these changes, we still preserve our reserves at a healthy balance to end 2011, with $1.08 million in the Public Safety Reserve Fund, $1.9 million in Emergency Reserve, and $2.6 million ending cash balance in the General Fund,” Cooper said. Ensuring a healthy reserve will be critical given the potential revenue loss to the city of up to $500,000 if either of the citizen-sponsored state liquor reform initiatives pass in November, he noted.

While the city has been frugal in its hiring practices in recent years, eliminating two dozen jobs in the past decade, Cooper proposed that the council fill a current vacancy in the City Clerk’s office to respond to the increasing number of public records requests.

You can read the Mayor’s complete budget address here.

In other City Council action Tuesday night, councilmembers:

– Unanimously approved the 2009-10 mid-year budget adjustment that has been the subject of continued council discussion in recent weeks, although Councilmember Lora Petso said she still isn’t completely satisfied with the explanation of what she believes are discrepancies in the budget numbers.

– Also approved, by a 6-0 vote, a proposal by Sustainable Edmonds to install a 75 kilowatt community solar power project on the roof of the Frances Anderson Community Center. The next step for the group will be to form a co-op interested in developing the project. For more information, see the Power Point presentation here.

– Voted 4-2 against approving a Capital Facilities Plan Element update for the City’s 2011-2016 Comprehensive Plan. The facilities plan, which is updated annually, identifies improvements, additions, upgrades or extensions of City infrastructure such as transportation, parks and stormwater. Those opposing the measure had various objections, including the cost of some of the projects, such as a $1 million stop light proposed for 9th Avenue and Main Street and $2.5 million for a roundabout project at Five Corners. However, the council did approve the stormwater portion, and asked staff to come back with further revisions to the transportation section.

– Designated two locations for inclusion on the Edmonds Register of Historic Places: the former Edmonds Elementary School (now the Frances Anderson Cultural Center) located at 700 Main St. and the Dr. Palmer House, at 820 Maple Street.

– Approved for a public hearing the Edmonds Planning Board’s recommendation to amend its civil enforcement procedures to be consistent with a recent State Supreme Court decision, extending the appeal period from 10 days to 21 days.

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