The Edmonds City Council agreed Tuesday night to authorize an early distribution of Snohomish County sales tax dollars to offset revenue losses suffered by the Edmonds Center for the Arts due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
As is now standard procedure under stay-at-home orders from Gov. Jay Inslee, the council met remotely via Zoom.
The early allocation of sales tax to the Edmonds PFD, which operates the ECA, was included in an amended interlocal agreement between the city and Snohomish County. The ECA began canceling events following Inslee’s initial March 11 order banning gatherings of 250 or more. Those orders have since become stay-at-home restrictions, lasting until May 4.
In a presentation to the council Tuesday night, Finance Director Scott James explained that the Edmonds PFD collects sales tax revenue from three sources:
- A direct allocation of state sales tax — set at 0.0333% of taxable sales in the city. This comes out of the state share of taxes collected in Edmonds. Use of these funds is unrestricted.
- A Tier 1 sales tax allocation from Snohomish County, which the county distributes to the four public facilities districts operating in Snohomish County — the Future of Flight, the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, the Edmonds Center for the Arts and the Lynnwood Convention Center. This is a set amount for each PFD, and was determined at the time each of them was formed. In the case of the Edmonds PFD, formed in 2001, the amount is $324,871. Use of these funds is also unrestricted.
- A Tier 2 sales tax allocation, also from Snohomish County and also distributed to the county’s PFDs. However, this distribution comes from excess county collections so is determined on an annual basis. The 2020 Tier 2 allocation for ECA is $237,882. Use of these funds is restricted for debt service payments only.
The county and its four public facilities districts have agreed to move up the timeline for the Tier 2 allocation payment timelines, so the PFDs can access those funds sooner. Under the amendment, the currently scheduled May 1 payment will now occur seven days after the amendment is ratified by the city and the county. The currently scheduled Nov. 1 payment would be moved up to July 1.
“I think it’s a very smart thing given the environment we are in,” City Councilmember Diane Buckshnis said in stating her support for the measure. “The money has already been collected. It’s in a trust. Let get it to them earlier.”
“The ECA has taken a pretty heavy hit with what’s been going on with no shows there,” added Council President Adrienne Fraley-Monillas, noting the facility has had to lay off several part-time staff.
In another Edmonds Public Facilities District matter, the council on Tuesday night interviewed Edmonds resident Bill Willcock and approved his appointment to fill a vacancy on the PFD board.
In other action, the council agreed to numerous first quarter budget amendments as presented by Finance Director James, with two exceptions:
- The council unanimously voted to remove $110,000 proposed for a consultant to take high-definition video of the city’s sewer pipes, which is labor-intensive work currently done by city staff. Edmonds Public Works Director Phil Williams explained that hiring a consultant would free up staff time to focus on a backlog of other projects. However, several city councilmembers said approving the consultant hiring is unwise during uncertain economic times. “I don’t think this is the year to be trying this out, and I’d like to revisit it in 2021,” Councilmember Laura Johnson said.
- Councilmembers supported an amendment by Fraley-Monillas to adjust the amount budgeted for food supplied to volunteers conducting day-long assessments for Edmonds police sergeant candidates — reducing it from $520 to $350. That passed 6-1, with Councilmember Kristiana Johnson voting no.
And finally, the council agreed how to handle meeting in committees — scheduled for next week — given the current use of Zoom. Councilmembers agreed they would meet as a “committee of the whole”next Tuesday — with all councilmembers hearing items normally delegated to a specific committee. This will be followed by a regular council business meeting in case action items must be considered.
Councilmembers also welcomed the city’s newest department director — Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Angie Feser — who started her job earlier this month and was on the Zoom call Tuesday night
— By Teresa Wippel