Edmonds City Council is now deep in the process of development of the 2024 City of Edmonds budget, and I’ve been giving the budgeting process a great deal of thought. It is clear our budget is stressed in 2023 and will be stressed even more in 2024. In fact, a council majority voted on Nov. 2 to declare a fiscal emergency, since the city was required to use reserves in 2023 to cover operating costs. This is causing council to look hard at how we can best allocate scarce budget resources and continue to deliver the top-quality city services our constituents expect. It comes down to defining our wants versus our needs.
We’ve clearly and repeatedly been told the city needs to get back to basics and focus on doing these things well: outstanding police services, more and better sidewalks/crosswalks/bike lanes, excellent fire/EMS services, good street quality, well distributed parks/open space within convenient walking distance for all residents, high quality water/sewer/stormwater systems, updated and clear city codes, stronger focus on environmental protection, etc. Council and the sdministration are working together to ensure these things are done.
Beyond the basics, the issue becomes prioritization of wants. And there is a gap around this issue: We don’t have sufficient clarity about what our citizens’ priorities are, and this is where we need your help. There will soon be a new Edmonds mayor and two new councilmembers. It is important the new administration and 2024 council have a clear view of how to prioritize the many “wants” of the city. And this is where it gets hard. Even if the city is operating as leanly and efficiently as possible, there is simply not enough money available to cover all the wants.
At a time of limited resources, if citizens had to choose between wants such as buying the Landmark property on Highway 99 for $37 million, for example, and purchasing the 20-acre Unocal property at the Edmonds Marsh to preserve it as open space, which would they choose? If the choice was to purchase both properties rather than investing in more sidewalks and parks, which would they choose? Those are just two examples, but they illustrate the problem. In fact, the city can’t afford all the wants with current resources. Since that’s the case, the next question would be: If citizens demand we deliver all the wants, are they willing to pay for them with additional taxes or a special levy?
Simply put, we need your help. Especially now, with a mayoral change and new council, we need to hear from you about how you expect your elected officials to responsibly manage your tax dollars. Please contact your elected officials via email or telephone, attend council meetings to voice your opinions, attend council and mayoral open houses, etc. and be sure your views are made known. We need your input around priorities. The year 2024 will be an unusually challenging year from a budgetary standpoint, but we can manage it with your guidance.
— By Dave Teitzel
Dave Teitzel currently holds Edmonds City Council Position 1. The thoughts expressed are his own and do not represent the views of city council as a body.