The Edmonds City Council voted 5-2 Tuesday night to approved Mayor Dave Earling’s 2016 budget, which adds seven new staff positions, continues the city’s street resurfacing and traffic improvements, and enhances the water, sewer and stormwater programs.
The budget was passed 5-2 over the objections of outgoing Councilmembers Lora Petso and Joan Bloom, who said they were concerned about the staffing increases. Petso also objected to the budget’s use of Real Estate Excise Taxes (REET) to fund certain projects, stating that the council instead should be setting aside REET dollars for possible future purchases of park and open space land, if it comes available.
Among the approved positions are two police officers to restore the police department’s street crimes unit, which was eliminated during the recession; one position each in Development Services, Finance, Engineering and Public Works; a half-time legislative analyst, and the expansion from three-quarter time to full-time a position in the City Clerk’s office to handle public records requests.
Nearly all of the budget amendments introduced Tuesday night were from Petso and Bloom, and the majority of them focused on cutting requested staff positions. “I’m trying to find places where I can minimize the extra hiring so if the economy does not continue to go gangbusters…you don’t have to start laying people off,” Petso explained.
“I’m very concerned about the budget,” Bloom added. “I feel like we are adding too many staff.”
However, nearly all of the Petso/Bloom budget amendments were defeated on a 2-5 — or in a few cases 3-4 — vote, the latter involving Councilmember Kristiana Johnson.
Bloom did have success, after much discussion, in gaining the council’s support for a $9,000 allocation for consultant staffing and materials for the Citizens Tree Board, which ensures the city maintains its Tree USA status.
And when it came time to act on the city’s Capital Facilities Plan, which is tied to the budget, Petso successfully lobbied for a 5-2 vote (Councilmembers Tom Mesaros and Mike Nelson voting against) regarding the Sunset Avenue project. The vote changed the reference to Sunset as a “walkway” rather than a “multi-use pathway” — a nod to Petso’s longtime concern that bicycles and pedestrians can’t safely mix on the project, which is currently in a demonstration phase.
Other approved elements of the approved budget include:
- Completing the Wayside Horn System aimed at reducing train noise at the city’s at-grade railroad crossings along the Edmonds waterfront.
- Installing curb ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.
- Completion of the 228th Street Southwest and Highway 99 roadway project.
- Traffic improvements in and around 76th Avenue West and 212th Street Southwest.
- Needed IT equipment replacement.
After the budget was passed, Mayor Dave Earling acknowledged his staff for going “out of their way to think creatively.”
“It’s still a pretty sensible budget,” Earling said.
In other action, the council authorized the mayor to sign a $100,000 professional services agreement with Fregonese Associates for the Highway 99 Subarea Planning Project.