Council adopts 2012 budget; eliminates HR Director position, contingency fund

The Edmonds City Council on Tuesday night approved a 2012 budget of just under $33 million, and in the process slashed a $165,000 contingency fund and the $110,000 Human Resources Director position left vacant when Mayor Mike Cooper fired HR Director Debi Humann in September.

With the $265,000 in savings, the approved $32,981,227 budget included most of what was originally proposed by Cooper, plus some additional staff-proposed “decision packages,” ranging from an upgrade to the city’s fueling station to an electronic document management system for the City Clerk’s office.

The proposal to eliminate the HR director position came from City Councilmember Michael Plunkett and drew support from other councilmembers who agreed that the director’s estimated $11o,000 salary couldn’t be justified since the department is comprised of just two people and oversees fewer personnel given the recent transfer of all city fire department personnel to Fire District 1.

Since Humann’s firing, HR analyst Mary Ann Hardie has been serving as an interim human resources manager while Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Carrie Hite has taken on some of the HR director duties temporarily. City Councilmember Steve Bernheim said he believes that the HR department “does require two people. I’m just not convinced that it requires as high a level of pay as before.”

“Paying $110,000 a year for a director in a two-person department is overkill,” Bernheim said. “Cuts are not the answer to everything but I think this is one place where we can make them.” The current pay range for an HR manager is around $75,000-$80,000 while an HR analyst makes around $50,000-$60,000, Hite said.

Cooper, presiding over his last council meeting after losing to Dave Earling in the Nov. 8 election, noted that the new mayor could suggest bringing back an HR director, but would need to ask the council for additional funding. “You control the money; the mayor controls the org chart,” Cooper said.

The $165,000 contingency fund, created to cover any “miscellaneous” staff requests that came up during the year, was the other victim of council budget cutting. Cooper said the fund’s purpose was to provide “wiggle room” for unexpected needs, but councilmembers agreed that was a lower priority that other budget items.

After the budget was approved, Plunkett congratulated Cooper on his efforts to ensure that the city had a balanced budget despite challenging economic times.

The compliment was one of many accolades the outgoing mayor received from his fellow councilmembers, who also also passed a resolution — which received a standing ovation from those in attendance — thanking Cooper for his service since he was appointed July 5, 2010 to fill the remainder of Gary Haakenson’s term. You can read the entire resolution honoring Cooper here.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas praised the former Washington State Legislator and Snohomish County Councilmember for his sense of humor, especially during some of the council’s challenging moments. “It made it easier for us to go through the things we had to go through,” she said. Plunkett credited Cooper with restoring trust between the Council and the City’s Finance Department after ongoing council conflicts with former Finance Director Lorenzo Hines.

The council also took the following actions Tuesday night:

– In an effort to address the environmental effects of Styrofoam containers, approved by a 5-1 vote (Councilmembers Lora Petso voting against and DJ Wilson absent) a proposal by Bernheim that prohibits the City of Edmonds — and any tenants in City buildings — from purchasing or providing food in noncompostable packaging. Last year the council had considered a ban on Styrofoam take-out food containers by food service businesses, but after further study decided against it. Instead, the new law will require food service businesses “to dispose of food waste and compostable or recyclable carryout food packaging in recycle or compost bins,” if such disposal “is feasible.”
– Approved a resolution opposing a plan to run up to 18 coal trains a day through Edmonds on their way to and from Bellingham, for shipment to China.
– Appointed City Council President Strom Peterson to replace Cooper as the City’s representative to the Regional Fire Authority Planning Committee.
– Voted to support the Interstate-5 light-rail option as the preliminary preferred alternative in Sound Transit’s North Corridor Transit Environmental Impact Statement.
– Heard an update on the city’s adjusted timeline for the Strategic Plan, which was delayed until the results of the November election were known.

  1. Thank you for your services, Mayor Cooper. You are a gentleman and scholar. You have spent your life in public services and I know this is not the last we will see of you. I look forward to supporting you in your future endeavors.

  2. I believe when Duane Bowman, Development Services Director, retired, that position was not filled and remains vacant.

  3. Mayor Copper is gone; good guy. Googbye and good luck. How in the world does anyone expect an org chart to solve the problems we have. We will not be able to balance the budget on the backs of employees. The cross hairs should be on the budget. The 2012 budget has been approved but for me it lacks transparency. Go to the link at and tell me if you understand what was presented. For example try to figure where our $20 license tab fees generated by the Transportation Board District (TBD) and found in Fund 631 are being spent. At its conception the Council and the public were told by staff that the money would go to repairing our existing roads. Sounds simple enough. What the 2012 Budget does say about the $600,000 in tab fees we will pay in 2012 is that the money will be transferred to “intergovernmental services”. Not good enough for me!

  4. Putting the ‘cross hairs’ on our employee’s salaries is as good a starting point as any. Eliminating a $100,000 + HR Director position is an excellent start for a City our size.

    I would be very interested in seeing the payroll records for every Edmonds employee, especially any and all making $100,000 plus.

    It is well past time for our employee salary structure to come in line with the citizens of Edmonds they work for.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  5. Foolish, foolish action to eliminate the HR Director position! As a former Director in the City, I know first hand that, even with two HR staff, that Department was under staffed! Their work is essential to support all the city employees. The Council has just made a bad situation go from barely tolerable to ridiculous.

  6. My former boss Duane and Harry are right. Neglected personnel problems will cause the City more problems in the long run. I believe we 5 HR personnel at Bothell, a city that is actually smaller than Edmonds. This just seemed like a game to show they had balanced the budget, even though they acknowledged they need more staff.

  7. While we may agree to disagree about the HR Director position, the real takeaway for me was seeing a Council that was, with one usual exception, working together to try to get things done. So glad that the elections are over, so that civility and focus on Duty could find their way back to the Council chambers.

  8. I agree, the city’s new website is much too slow when compared to the older site. It also has often caused my web browser to crash, so I’m continuing to use the older site. I understand that Carl Nelson is working on improvements.

  9. As we look at things like the new web site we also have to look at the context of he resources available to develop the new site. Our IT and Finance Dept has reduced staff over the last few years that puts a strain on the budget make new projects like the new web site. They have cut staff and budget over the last few years. When the new web site was first considered, the money for outside help was very limited. Instead of contracting it all out much of the detailed work was done by the respective departments. The 2012 budget did little for adding to the IT budget. So we are left with very limited resources to finish the work and make enhancements. But our City staff is dedicated and always seems to find a way to get things done. This effort is no exception and in time improvements will be made.

    With limited budget they will do the best they can to make the site more useful and respond more quickly.

  10. Ron,

    I am so glad that you are going to volunteer to be the web master for the new updated city web site. One way the city can save even more money is using citizen volunteers to manage tasks like the web site. You have stated it would be no big deal and should not take a lot of time. I am sure many citizens of Edmonds will say good on you when you take this task over.

    I would also ask that you could use the web site you will be web master for to detail all of the waste you have identified within the city.

  11. I emailed Public Works Director Phil Williams ( the use of the Transportation Benefit Fund (TBD). The $20 license tab fee generates $600,000 a year.It is only used for maintenance of our local street system: labor, equipment cost, supplies for pothole repairs, point repairs to paved surfaces, maintenance of traffic signals and signs, crack sealing etc. It is not used for sidewalk maintenance, vegetation control, snow and ice control, streetlights, street sweeping etc. When the TBD was formed the city suspended the transfer from the General Fund so the city has no more money for streets than before the TBD was formed.
    In fact the Street fund has $170,000 less than it did before the TBD was formed.
    This may explain why there was a request for a license fee increase and most recently the street levy.
    The citizens and our leaders have some hard decisions to make in the future.

  12. Hi Duane (post #8),

    Nice to see you posting here and nice to see you still are following events in Edmonds.

    I have an opinion that some of the City’s budget difficulties relate to the City’s code. Mr. Bowman represented during the October 25, 2005 City Council Meeting that the piecemeal amendments made to the Code since the 1980’s made the Code difficult to use and administer.

    I know that the City was very motivated to rewrite the Code and I believe the City budgeted monies to do so in 2005-2006 time period. I believe the Council hoped the Code rewrite would take 18 months to two years.

    Sadly, during a February, 2011 Citizen Coffee, the former City Attorney represented that the Code rewrite process had been slow and cumbersome and that political issues had brought this issue almost to a standstill. This explanation differed somewhat from his 2007 CITY ATTORNEY ANNUAL REPORT found in the November 20, 2007 City Council Meeting Minutes which represented:

    The biggest issue at the start of 2007 was the code rewrite; for a variety of reasons including staff illnesses and his sabbatical, little progress was made on the code rewrite. His and staff’s efforts were also diverted by a number of land use appeals with regard to one property.

    I am of the opinion that the condition of the City’s Code as well as staff’s difficulties using and administering the Code creates inefficiencies at the City. These inefficiencies have contributed to our budget woes.

    Would appreciate others thoughts on this, including who is responsible for the current condition of the Code as well as the incomplete Code rewrite process.

    Also, who trains City Staff specifically related to the Code?

  13. Ron,

    i was not being smart or impertinent. You seem to believe that reconfiguring a web site is no big deal. Step up, quit complaining and do it for the city.

    You talk about all kinds of waste in the budget. Show us the waste. It is easy to be an arm chair quarterback, but not so easy to step up to make a difference.

    I am challenging you to get out of your arm chair and do something. If you consider that being a smart alec, your opinion has little value going forward.

  14. Thanks Barbara for the information related to the TBD. The City provides more information at the following webpage:

    More info is found on the City of Prosser’s Website :

    What transportation improvements can be funded by a TBD?

    A TBD can fund any transportation improvement contained in any existing state or regional transportation plan that is necessitated by existing or reasonably foreseeable congestion levels. This can include maintenance and improvements to city streets, county roads, state highways, investments in high capacity transportation, public transportation, transportation demand management and other transportation projects identified in a regional transportation planning organization plan or state plan.

    Can a TBD fund maintenance and preservation activities?

    Yes. A TBD may fund the operation, maintenance, and preservation of the programs and facilities noted above. Additionally, maintenance and preservation activities are noted in many state and regional transportation plans. For example, preservation of existing transportation facilities is the number one priority within the Washington State Transportation Plan. Eliminating the backlog of asphalt pavement projects and maintaining chip seal paving, along with many other maintenance and preservation activities, are specifically noted as priorities in that Plan.

    However, keep in mind that any transportation improvement also needs to be “necessitated by existing or reasonably foreseeable congestion levels”. Consequently, not every street, road, transit program, etc. will qualify as a transportation improvement.

  15. Barbara,

    The City’s TBD website provides the following information, which appears to have been written in 2009:

    The City has limited funding to pay for necessary transportation preservation and maintenance. This has resulted in the need to provide an ever-increasing annual contribution from the City’s general fund to the street fund in order to continue preserving and maintaining transportation infrastructure. In 2009, this contribution is expected to reach approximately $700,000.

    On November 18, 2008, after conducting a public hearing, the Edmonds City Council approved Ordinance 3707 that amended the Edmonds City Code, enacting a new Chapter 3.65, and forming the Edmonds TBD.

    On February 17, 2009, the Edmonds TBD board adopted Ordinance No. 1 authorizing an annual $20 vehicle license fee. With the establishment of an annual $20 vehicle license fee, the City will begin to replace, in part, transportation funding that has been lost to the City, reduce the City’s general fund contribution, and help preserve and maintain the City’s transportation infrastructure.

    I am curious about the following . . .”When the TBD was formed the city suspended the transfer from the General Fund so the city has no more money for streets than before the TBD was formed.
    In fact the Street fund has $170,000 less than it did before the TBD was formed.”

    I wonder if contributions from the General Fund were suspended or merely reduced?

    Is the TBD providing 100% of the monies Edmonds spends for maintenance of our local street system: labor, equipment cost, supplies for pothole repairs, point repairs to paved surfaces, maintenance of traffic signals and signs, crack sealing etc.?

    If not, perhaps the City can disclose how much money has been allocated from the City’s general fund to the street fund in 2009, 2010 and YTD 2011.

  16. Barbara….perhaps the transfer of general fund dollars to the street fund was eliminated. The following is found in former Mayor Haakenson’s Presentation of the 2009-2010 Preliminary Budget documented in the September 30, 2008 City Council Meeting Minutes:

    “With an approval of a Transportation Benefit District (TBD) to accomplish many of
    the City’s transportation projects, it would be possible to eliminate the transfer of general fund dollars to those projects freeing up that money for general fund purposes. This could be put into place immediately for $20 or Council could go to the voters with a plan in place to ask for a larger amount.”

    I think many would find interest in reading the entire 2009-2010 Preliminary Budget presentation. The presentation was made shortly after the sharp stock market sell off of July 2008 and provides a good window into the challenges facing Edmonds then and now.

  17. Ron B #16. You offered to provide many more waste examples back in 16. Could you pass those along. I am doing some follow up work on budget issues and would like to have what you have discovered for some of the work that I am doing. If you do not care to share them on this site you have my email. Thanks in advance Ron.

  18. Just a quick character reference about Bill Vance. I have served with Bill on a number of committees working on issues for the city. I have always found Bill’s spirit to be bold and resourceful. He freely has given of his time and energies and what I believe are considerable sophistication and skills to help the city. When it comes to people willing to think, listen, comment, give and take to help our city Bill is an asset. Edmonds can use more people like Bill to help with the solutions to our problems. So as one “smart alec” to another, I look forward to working with you now and in the future. I believe it is time to look for the good in people and their contibution to Edmonds. I don’t have to look far to find the good work bill is doing.

  19. Darrol, I second, third and fourth your comments in #27, . I would hope that Ron B. would provide more examples of waste on this site so the citizens can be more informed and talk to the council members about ithem.

  20. For those of you who don’t know too much about “Human Resource Directors” & have no idea what a Human Resource Director does, here is a typical job description:
    The Human Resources Director guides and manages the overall provision of Human Resources services, policies, and programs for the entire company. The major areas directed are:
    • recruiting and staffing;
    • organizational and space planning;
    • performance management and improvement systems;
    • organization development;
    • employment and compliance to regulatory concerns;
    • employee orientation, development, and training;
    • policy development and documentation;
    • employee relations;
    • company-wide committee facilitation;
    • company employee and community communication;
    • compensation and benefits administration;
    • employee safety, welfare, wellness and health;
    • charitable giving; and
    • employee services and counseling.
    (Note: Depending on your organization’s needs, the Human Resources Director often directs administration, including reception, and may even be responsible for facility security and upkeep in addition to space planning.)
    The Human Resources Director originates and leads Human Resources practices and objectives that will provide an employee-oriented, high performance culture that emphasizes empowerment, quality, productivity and standards, goal attainment, and the recruitment and ongoing development of a superior workforce.
    The Human Resources Director coordinates implementation of services, policies, and programs through Human Resources staff; reports to the CEO and serves on the executive management team; and assists and advises company managers about Human Resources issues.
    Primary Objectives:
    • Safety of the workforce.
    • Development of a superior workforce.
    • Development of the Human Resources department.
    • Development of an employee-oriented company culture that emphasizes quality, continuous improvement, and high performance.
    • Personal ongoing development.

  21. Ron B, Sorry you think I am joking. I am not. As for the other items thanks for your input. In your last paragraph you once again resort to personal attacks to make your point. You suggest that my remarks are stupid and I know it. While they may be stupid to someone as gifted as you they are the best I can do as I try to make a positive contibution.

    When I was in grade school I recall that one of the things the that the teacher evaluated was ” how well the person interacted with others” I usually scored well in that area. That spirit is how I apporach my volunteer work and how I approach the commments I make here. ALL of the folks I work with as a volunteer play by the same beliefs that if we work together, listien to one another we can make some progress. Your knowledge and experience could help the city and I would hope that you someday join the rest of us and try to help move this city forward.

  22. Darrol Great comments. Ron B. It is time to move on from the past. I would like to see you come and contribute to what is happening today and help those of use who volenteer our time to help us move the city forward. It is time for positve input

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