Council budget amendment work continues during Saturday session

The Edmonds City Council Saturday afternoon continued its work on amendments to the city’s proposed 2023 budget. Among the council’s actions: deleting a proposal to use federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding for “green streets” projects and allocating $300,000 in ARPA funds for the city’s code rewrite process.

The budget amendments came as part of a four-hour meeting agenda that was continued from the council’s Dec. 6 regular meeting. The proposals considered Saturday included the following:

Councilmember Susan Paine proposed hiring a consultant to investigate the formation of seven city council districts in Edmonds. The motion failed for lack of a second.

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Councilmember Diane Buckshnis proposed removing $50,000 from the $350,000 allocated to the planning and development services professional services budget for the city’s Comprehensive Plan update. Buckshnis noted that the department had officially requested $300,000 for the effort and the $50,000 appears to be in excess of what the department needs.

Planning and Development Director Susan McLaughlin said that the extra money gives the department some “nimble funding” for responding to changes in policy direction or other actions such as council-passed moratoriums.

Council President Vivian Olson said she can see the value of both arguments. The council, she said, is “trying to tighten our belts a little bit” and one of the ways to do that is by removing discretionary spending.

The vote on the amendment was 3-3, with Councilmembers Paine, Dave Teitzel and Will Chen voting no. Tie votes mean the motion fails, and those were common on Saturday as Councilmember Jenna Nand was absent.

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Buckshnis also proposed removing ARPA funding for two green streets projects — downtown at Dayton Street between Highway 104 and 2nd Avenue South and in the Gateway neighborhood on 236th Street Southwest between 84th Avenue West and Highway 99.

A green street, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “is a stormwater management approach that incorporates vegetation (perennials, shrubs, trees), soil, and engineered systems (e.g., permeable pavements) to slow, filter, and cleanse stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces (e.g., streets, sidewalks).”

Buckshnis and other councilmembers spoke to the value of delaying the green streets effort, stating they don’t have enough details about city’s plan to support it. Some councilmembers said they were particularly concerned that the 2023 budget proposal — which would allocate approximately $300,000 to complete 10% design on the projects — puts the city on the hook for millions of dollars in future general fund costs for green streets construction, plus ongoing maintenance costs. Olson and Chen said they would prefer to use those general fund dollars for sidewalk construction as well as park amenities — particularly in the Gateway neighborhood. Paine disagreed, stating that “the environmental impacts of having green streets are enormous,” adding that the initiative “is a really good opporunity to put green infrastructure into an area that doesn’t have parks.”

Paine also said she was hopeful that the city could get future sidewalk funding through the new federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

McLaughlin weighed in as well, noting the opportunity that ARPA funding presents for stormwater management, which is  a core component of the green streets effort. “These funds are at the ready,” McLaughlin said. She also added that an investment in surface infrastructure through green streeets means areas lacking in tree canopy — including the Highway 99 area — will receive more street trees.

The final vote to remove the green streets project from the 2023 budget was 5-1, with Paine voting no.

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Also approved by the council was a proposal by Teitzel to set aside $300,000 in ARPA funding to focus on rewriting the Edmonds City Code — a priority of councilmembers and residents for many years.

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Another Teitzel proposal to fund support for hybrid in-person/remote meetings of the Edmonds Planning Board also was approved. The cost will be $5,000.

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Olson proposed reducing the amount budgeted for professional services related to developing a Edmonds Aquifer Recharge Area Code, as requested by the Olympic View Water and Sewer District. The idea, she said, was to model the Edmonds code on a similar Snohomish County code, which could save the city money. However, McLaughlin cautioned that much of the funding requested would be related to the public process associated with that particular code development, rather than writing the code itself. The amendment failed on a 2-4 vote, with Olson and Buckshnis voting yes.

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The council rejected a proposal from Buckshnis to remove $30,000 from the budget aimed at developing a green building incentive program for developers. The vote was 1-5, with Buckshnis voting for the measure.

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A proposal by Paine to bring back the City of Edmonds recycling coordinator position — with half of it grant funded — failed due to a 3-3 vote. Paine had argued that the position would help the city kickstart its Climate Action Plan Goals. There’s a possibility the position could be added with a budget amendment in 2023. Paine, Buckshnis and Teitzel voted for the measure, with Councilmembers Neil Tibbott, Olson and Chen voting no.

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The council unanimously approved a proposal by Chen and Tibbott to accelerate the design and construction schedule for a Gateway neighborhood walkway on 84th Avenue West from 238th to 234th Streets Southwest. The project had been scheduled for design in 2026 and construction in 2027; under the approved budget amendment design will occur in 2023 and construction in 2024.

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Buckshnis proposed removing $562,544 from the public works professional services budget, questioning the need for the funds. Public Works Director Oscar Antillon explained that the money would be used for costs related to future projects, including a planned utility rate study and needed reservoir repairs/upgrades. With a 3-3 vote, the proposal failed.

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The council unanimously approved a staff-proposed budget amendment allocating $20,595 for a pedestrian safety program — doubling the amount allocated in 2022.

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A proposal by Teitzel to deny a proposed utility rate increase for 2023 until a rate study was conducted failed on a 2-4 vote, Teitzel and Buckshnis voting yes. Olson argued against it, noting that while “nobody is excited about having their utility rates go up,” delaying the rate hike would likely result in an even larger increase in future years.

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Teitzel proposed removing an expenditure of $30,000 for a vehicle requested as part of the funding for a new capital projects manager in the public works department. He argued that the city already has vehicles available for pool use. The measure was approved by a 4-2 vote.

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Teitzel also proposed transferring funding now slated for the Elm Way walkway between 8th and 9th Avenues South and instead spend the money on sidewalks along 238th Street Southwest between Highway 99 and 76th Avenue West in the Lake Ballinger area. He argued that sidewalks in what he described as the “Ballinger Bowl” of Edmonds “have been underfunded for decades” and that the Elm Way project could be postponed. However, Olson said the Elm Way area is “extremely precarious” for pedestrians and has already been delayed so it could be coordinated with a bike lane project in the area. The proposal failed due to a 3-3 tie vote.

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During the budget discussion, Teitzel made a request that staff post the draft 2023 budget, with council-approved amendments reflected, by Dec. 12, so that residents could get a sense of where the budget stands. Olson made a motion that directed the budget be posted and it passed by a 5-1 vote (Paine voting no).

Following that vote, Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson took a five-minute recess to speak with City Attorney Jeff Taraday, then returned to the dais and stated that he would take the council’s request “under advisement.”

“I do appreciate the fact that staff members don’t report to council, however council took a vote and this is the council’s budget, not the mayor’s budget,” Teitzel said. “This is a critical piece of information for us to have in terms of where we stand on the impact on the budget that’s been presented to us earlier. So I would appreciate that more than taking it under advisement, to actually provide the information we need on Monday.”

— By Teresa Wippel

 

 

 

    1. I figure she must have a good reason. I like her and she does seem pretty good about caring for everyone so I am thinking she does have a good reason. I have heard her make some good points during meetings and so yes. I hope she and her family are all well. Lets give her some privacy and a chance. I also think Dave Teitzel is right the public and the citizens of Edmonds who do pay taxes and gain or suffer from budget decisions should be aware and have an easy place to see the exact amount for everything. When you try to hide imformation people become suspicious of the motives behind the hiding or unwillingness to divulge. So yes let us see it ok. I don’t know if Mayor Nelson is running again for Mayor but if he is he probably would be wise to be forthcoming. Ms. Paine well I don’t know if she will run again for CC either. But it is very clear that she is nice ok…but she is not and does not present as very nonpartisan. I think her ideals are such it’s worth the risk for her.

  1. The Greenstreets clearly are more of an expensive want than a need. Commitments of millions of dollars for Greenstreets seems irresponsible then other parts of the city don’t even have sidewalks that are safe. The five council members actually did a pretty good job of sorting out the budget amendments, with CM Nand’s absence, and the sixth member Council Member Paine’s obsequious loyalty to the administration’s positions. Special thanks to MEN for the outstanding reporting.

  2. Posting this on Jim Ogonowski’s behalf due to technical difficulties:

    This is a new low for this mayor. The last three paragraphs in Teresa’s well written synopsis of what transpired Saturday says it all. Councilmember Teitzel made a simple motion to have the city post the results of the budget amendment process to provide the community visibility in how our tax money is being spent. How could any councilmember vote against providing transparency into the budget? Yet, CM Paine did. And then, after the 5-1 vote, Nelson had the gall to say he’ll “take it under advisement”. He show’s utter disdain for the citizens he supposedly represents.

    What doesn’t the mayor want us to see before the Council votes on the budget? What else is hidden? What are the implications of adopting this inflated budget on our future property, utility, and sale taxes? What risks are we assuming with this budget? All questions which can be answered with proper visibility.

    I applaud CM Teitzel for calling the mayor out on this. I just wish other councilmembers had the courage to do so in the moment as well. They can take the opportunity now to voice their opinion by commenting on this thread.

    The next election can’t come soon enough.

  3. One Council Member M.I.A. during budget meetings and one C.M. and a Mayor not sure they can approve of a proposed or adopted budget being posted for public observation by their constituents. And I keep being told that this is a good form of city governance; just being run by some of the wrong people. When will we get a good system of good people just pulling together to solve real problems and meet real city citizens needs?

  4. Dear Vivian, After reading the MEN summary of the 2023 budget meeting, I am scratching my head as to why you, or other CM’s did not push back to the mayor’s attempt to block citizens from reviewing our 2023 budget paid for by
    OUR tax dollars. This is bad governance once again. The CC should step in and follow CM Teitzel’s request to publicly post the 2023 budget with all the latest amendments. This mayor and his co-hort, CM Paine continue to display a complete lack of respect for the citizens of Edmonds. Please fix this.

    1. I am not following this, Kim. CM Teitzel’s motion (to require posting of the draft budget as amended on Monday) was supported without reluctance by a supermajority of your Council, including me. CM Teitzel thought to make the motion first and is to be commended for that.

    1. MEN does a great job and Teresa is wonderful. I am always amazed truly to see how MEN allows all views. THIS is the kind of Newpaper everyone should use as an example in reporting. Even the BIG papers in major cities that are often used by people posting and quoting on FB for instance are not as Nonpartisan as our MEN. Way to go Teresa.

  5. Vivian, My apologies for any confusion on my earlier comment. Thank you and the other 4 CC’s for approving Dave’s motion to have staff post the 2023 budget. I misunderstood the process. Overall, I’m hoping the CC can continue to push for transparency in everything affecting Edmonds tax-payers.

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