While the economy in Edmonds remains robust, there are indicators it may be slowing and now is not the time for excessive spending, Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling told the City Council during his 2019 budget address Tuesday night.
In the past few months, Earling said, automobile sales — “while still strong” — have begun to slow. Real estate sales are leveling off. And the city’s building permit activity has also cooled. “These are three important indicators we need to closely watch,” the mayor said.
The mayor noted that the U.S. is in the 112th month of sustained economic growth, and the record duration of an economic expansion is 120 months. It’s prudent to expect that the economic “bump in the road” will show up at some point, he added, and that means the city should avoid excessive spending.
Earling described the 2019 draft budget as “a mix of new, one-time expenditures and some additions which require long-term financial commitments.”
– Two additional Public Works positions, to assist with city sidewalk improvements; a new safety and risk management coordinator position; a half-time position for the Edmonds Youth Commission created by the council earlier this year, and a school resource officer for Scriber Lake High School. (The school resource officer would be funded under the same-cost sharing arrangement that the city has with the Edmonds School District for an officer at Edmonds-Woodway High School.)
– $75,000 for Edmonds Center for the Arts operations.
– $250,000 toward a transitional housing project proposed by the City of Lynnwood — with financial help from various partners including the City of Edmonds and the Verdant Health Commission — to shelter Edmonds School District homeless students and their families.
(By way of background, City of Lynnwood officials are attempting to purchase the Rodeo Inn property on Highway 99 for this purpose, although city spokeswoman Julie Moore told My Edmonds News Tuesday that an agreement has not yet been reached with the property owner.)
In addition to the $250,000 included for transitional housing in the 2019 draft budget, Earling told the council he was hopeful councilmembers would match the amount with $250,000 they designated in the 2018 budget for homelessness issues. That would bring the city’s total donation to $500,000, he said.
In addition, Earling’s budget proposes setting aside an additional $495,000 to cover the city’s fire and emergency services contract with South Snohomish County Fire & Rescue (formerly Fire District 1). Exact costs for that contract are unknown because South County Fire “hasn’t yet settled their union agreement,” Earling said.
The mayor also said he is allocating $1.5 million for street overlays, noting the city is still playing “catch-up” in this area due to previous years of neglect. In addition, there is a proposed increase of $300,000 — from $400,000 to $700,000 — for the city’s building repair and maintenance fund, which has suffered “from years of lack of attention,” the mayor said.
Also in the draft budget:
– $75,000 for a downtown parking study.
– $2.5 million for city-wide pedestrian safety improvement projects.
– $4.3 million to beach rehabilitation and parking improvements associated with the Edmonds Waterfront Center, which is scheduled to replace the current Edmonds Senior Center in 2019.
-$100,000 for enhancements to the Edmonds Marsh.
– Funding for $2 per Edmonds resident to the Snohomish County Health District, doubling the existing $1 per capita commitment.
“We in Edmonds have also been obvious beneficiaries of the strong economy,” Earling said, pointing to “another banner revenue year” for the city, including collection of a record $8 million-plus in sales tax revenue.
“Whether downtown, in Westgate, or along Highway 99, we have witnessed a sustained and growing energy in our community these past several years,” he said. “Younger families moving in, strong sales tax revenues, new construction projects, and a growing and exciting business community.”
While the city’s economy remains strong in the short term, five-year projections indicate “economic softening, which would send us modestly into the red by the end of the fifth year,” Earling said. The city will continue to monitor the trends and if they hold true, Edmonds will either need to further strengthen its tax base or consider additional revenue sources, such as an increase in Transportation Benefit District fees or raising EMS fees, he added.
Earling closed by pointing to the city’s “successful, energetic community” that also includes a dynamic business community.
“We continue to grow our reputation as a Puget Sound area daytime destination, drawing visitors from throughout the region,” Earling said. We have a strong and growing health-care sector,” he said. “More families are moving to Edmonds, seeking quality schools and housing opportunities. Downtown has become a lively destination for shopping, dining and entertainment. All of this has benefited our local economy greatly and will continue to be the cornerstones of our local economic strength.”
The entire budget will be available for citizen review on the city’s website Oct. 10, according to City Finance Director Scott James.
Next in the budget process are presentations to the council by city department directors, tentatively scheduled as follows:
Oct. 16: Public Works including Utilities, Street, Public Works Administration, Facilities Maintenance, Equipment Rental and Engineering
Oct. 23: Economic Development, Development Services, Parks, Human Resources, City Attorney and Municipal Court
Nov. 5: Police Department, City Clerk, Mayor’s Office and Council, Finance & Information Services, Non-departmental
Nov. 13: Revenue sources
Nov. 20: Public hearing on preliminary 2019 budget and public comment.
Nov. 27: Public hearing and potential adoption of the 2019 budget.
Dec. 4: 2019 budget review and adoption of the 2019 budget (if necessary).
Also Tuesday night, the council heard a proclamation recognizing Oct. 7-13 as Emergency Nurses Week. Accepting the proclamation was Swedish Edmonds emergency nurse Michael Hastings, who serves as the clinical manager at the Swedish Edmonds Emergency Department and Short Stay Unit. He was accompanied by several of his Swedish Edmonds co-workers.
— By Teresa Wippel