Commentary: Revisiting the 2022 budget is good governance

City Councilmember Diane Buckshnis

In response to Mayor Nelson’s press release of 1/28/22, there is no point in debating the hyperbole and fear-mongering he chose to dispel in his statement.

Edmonds’ citizens can rest assured that this council has no intention of negatively impacting public safety, the environment, or keeping the public uninformed.

Most of the amendments to be presented were not deliberated during the prior expedited budget process. This upcoming amendment process will allow for citizen input that was not previously permitted, since the public hearing continuance limited public participation despite new information being put forth in the interim.  The discussion on these amendments also allows two councilmembers to participate who were unable to attend the final deliberations subsequent to the last-minute scheduling of the special budget adjournment meeting.

Revisiting this budget is called good governance.

The one truthful point Mayor Nelson made in his statement was that we are fortunate that our local economy is strong with record revenues and stable city finances. Of course, Edmonds’ financial situation was bolstered due to federal and state funding to assist municipalities during the pandemic. Still, if the city is so flush with monies, why did we need to dip into $2.1 million of unrestricted reserves? And, why was the policy to discuss this issue with the council’s Finance Committee not followed? The reserves are intended for emergencies, after all; this must be discussed in a council-inclusive process.

Costly items in the budget with no plan for how this money will be spent or if the amount is appropriate is included. Were these numbers guesstimates? Where is the data to support these placeholders consisting of millions of dollars? One example is the Perrinville Creek restoration funds intended to reopen the creek to migrating salmon; to date there has been no restoration solutions offered in over one year since the creek connection to the Salish Sea was cutoff due to flooding, despite promises made by the administration. So, what was the basis of this funding amount?

The bottom line is that council is responsible for safeguarding citizens’ money and that is the intent of the proposed budget amendment deliberations. Importantly, budget amendments occur quarterly. So if we are able to protect our reserves by paring down the budget and integrate large, costly organizational restructures, then we can easily add appropriations back in as we better understand the needs and gain more insight regarding 2022 revenues. Our revenues are reported on a monthly basis. And our economy still faces uncertainty associated with increased inflations, supply chain disruptions, climate change disruptions, labor shortages and an ongoing pandemic.

In closing, I take my fiduciary responsibility seriously and have worked through 12 budget cycles with four administrations. Citizens should understand that last year’s budget process was completely atypical and we have never dipped into unrestricted reserves during the budget process. This additional amendment process is intended to make it somewhat more typical, allowing all councilmembers and citizens to participate in an open and transparent way.

— By Edmonds City Councilmember Diane Buckshnis

  1. If a thorough budget process is so important, why did this council member attempt to put through motions last week that would have amended the budget, in advance of the public hearing? It’s odd that’s not addressed here. It’s literally the exact opposite behavior they’re arguing for in this letter.

    1. The budget is never finalized until it is in ordinance form. There’s no harm in vetting and discussing amendments because many citizens weighed in last year via email after being excluded from their comments at the budget hearing continuance.

      Timing is crucial now since 2022 budget was passed in 2021 by simple majority; and some citizen don’t mind thoughtful discussions before a public hearing.

      Again, nothing is final until an ordinance is created with the list of super-majority votes to either remove the appropriation or conversely add appropriation as well (Municipal Court Restructure is a good example or new Hwy 99 office – yet to be named).

      Thx for the question.

  2. Thank you Diane! You get my vote over and over again as long as you want to be on Council. You shouldn’t have to be placed in this position by the Mayor and what his “Old Wall” created, by rushing through the Mayor’s want list.
    This budget is yours to approve and the Mayor needs to remember his duties and where yours begins! Thank you for all of your hard work!

  3. Thank you Councilmember Buckshnis for your complete and thorough explanation as to why the Edmonds City Budget passed so hastily last year needs to be reviewed and examined by ALL stakeholders.
    Thank you for your excellent service to our community.

    1. Excellent Job Diane. It was perfect and it did explain it all. You are very tactful and concise. Thank you. Deb. I too will continue to support you.

  4. Diane, Thank you for your dedicated service to the citizens of Edmonds, and for your financial oversight to try and course correct the abuse of power shown by the mayor, Susan Paine and Laura Johnson in rushing approval of this 2022 bloated budget.

  5. Thank you Councilmember Buckshnis! You are exactly right. Let’s get back to basics and develop a budget based on what our city needs and not what the mayor wants. A budget which is balanced within our projected revenues and not spending from reserves meant for emergencies. A budget which is practical and pragmatic. A budget that is prioritized to provide essential services and not for unrealistic or unsubstantiated ideals. A budget directed towards a future vision for our city which we have all had a part in creating.

    Once we have a well thought out budget, then let’s hold the mayor accountable for spending our money in an efficient manner which provides expected results per preestablished schedules and milestones. As Councilmember Buckshnis states, this then would be good governance.

  6. It will be interesting to see how Councilmember Buckshnis responds to any public comment that doesn’t follow her way of thinking. I sent an email to the council and her response to me was basically that my views were misinformed and therefore incorrect. I understand Ms. Buckshnis has strong opinions on this budget, but she might be better off acknowledging others have strongly held beliefs as well. Afterall, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar…

    1. Ann, this is part of my concern, too. I feel like residents are just getting half the necessary context with how this latest budget update is being conducted.

  7. I have not heard a good explanation of why the amendments allocate a significant amount of money to the arts district and at the same time, shift a significant amount away from human services, including funds for household support grants, and items like police body cameras that will help provide accountability for law enforcement officers. I live in a neighborhood (Hwy 99 area) that provides the city with a significant amount of tax revenue and yet receives disproportionately less than other areas of the city in terms of human services, the arts, parks, etc., as well as accountable and community-based policing.

    1. Kim I would agree the arts district doesn’t need any extra funding. And at the same time agree the human services department doesn’t need that much either. I am for the body cameras but against the security fence. I am for private car charging stations but against city owned charging stations except those that may power city vehicles. These kind of differences are what the council needs to debate. Frankly I consider it doing their due diligence. Shame it couldn’t have all been worked out by now but glad it is getting closer scrutiny.

      1. City subsidized charging stations and solar panel systems are promoted by out-of-touch elites who want to subsidize wealthier lifestyles by redistribution of money away from working-class or fixed income people through taxes.

    2. Kim,

      We agree – the body cameras are a good option to pursue. They work. They either get the bad cops off of the street or they encourage and promote better training opportunities. Putting a fence around the police station reminds me a bit of the moat around a fort – unfortunately, the rest of us don’t have access to hang out in the fort.

      On the expenditures on policing, I would argue that more is expended along Highway 99 than other areas of the City for enforcement and complaint actions.

      On the tax revenue side, the businesses along Highway 99 have taken an obvious majority view that they pay taxes and that the City should handle the rest. Until the City/County/State makes it punitive for them to ignore their obligations – the Government is investing a huge amount of money in that corridor – that should come with a cost – granted they pay taxes, but leaving Government to fix everything usually leads to more fixes that have to fix what non-profit driven organizations forget to include.

      It will be interesting to see the outcomes. One area that I think is a misnomer is the “less than other areas in terms of human services” – I am not sure what that means. The Seattle area disproportionately spends more money per capita on human services issues and has not found the ability to partner, create solutions, or decrease those problems. On the contrary, they have found ways to exacerbate the issues. Again, Government solutions that have not been effectively or efficiently deployed (and in my opinion it is because there are a huge number of competing interests in the non-profit sector that are not collaborative in their approach).

      Last point – I am pleased to hear about the study for the relocation of the City Facilities and Property Acquisition. One way to control and change the course of the City is to acquire as the opportunities are available. On the 99 corridor, it is expensive, but as we see the City change, it’s time to foster that change.

  8. Ms. Buckschnis, thank you for sharing your thoughts and perspective with additional information on the budget. Your work here is appreciated.

  9. I listened to the Council meeting and was shocked that packages being considered for “adjustment” weren’t better understood by Ms. Buckshnis. Why couldn’t you ask the Chief of Police about the specifics of a reorganization or how many people were traditionally on the dive team? Was it impossible for you to ask detailed questions about the POI prior to submitting for an “adjustment?” And more than an hour of meeting time is gone…I saw plenty of transparency tonight, but not much due diligence!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.