Cuts loom as Edmonds wrestles tough budget

  • Tue Apr 10th, 2012 6:56pm

By Mina Williams Herald writer

EDMONDS — With less than five months under his belt, Mayor Dave Earling is laying the groundwork for Edmonds’ 2013 budget. And that upcoming budget is like none other the city has faced.

For the past several years mayors have cautioned that 2013 would be the year that Edmonds’ expenses eclipse revenues. The sluggish economy and the resulting lackluster revenue from retail sales taxes coupled with underperforming real estate taxes due to depressed property values are primary culprits.

In one budget-cutting effort, the council eliminated the vacant human resources director position last November. The duties were put on Carrie Hite, director of parks and recreation.

That reduced the human resources salary budget from $197,313 in 2011 to $63,882 in 2012. However it set into motion an evaluation of workload and alternative compensation factors when city staffers are required to perform additional duties. While the position may be eliminated from the budget, work still needs to be done – and paid for.

Earling’s solution was extra pay for extra work – up to 10 percent of the employee’s salary – for special-duty pay.

But council members balked at giving the mayor carte blanche permission to give pay raises when employees step outside of their job description. The debate about how Hite will be compensated for the additional duties and if council members or the mayor should have the final say continues.

Earling urged the council to keep an eye on agility when it comes to personnel decisions.

“The thought of bringing every manager, every director to council for approval for extra duties would bring the city to a grinding halt,” he said. “The mayor needs to have the ability to act quickly in some instances. Coming back for every personnel decision would make it difficult to operate the city.”

Proposal for parks

Another budget-trimmer city staff is exploring is a Metropolitan Park District.

Much like a transportation benefit district, it is a funding mechanism to shield parks and recreation from budget cuts.

Instituting this could result in more than $2 million remaining in the general fund, according to Shawn Hunstock, finance director.

As civic revenues decrease and other resources become unavailable, this is one way to move forward with capital projects or simply to sustain parks, Hite said.

“We have some deferred maintenance issues and some capital needs,” she said. “I encourage (council members) to have this conversation with citizens.”

Metropolitan Park Districts can offer a levy of up to 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to provide improvements, maintenance and acquire parks and recreation facilities.

The governing body is either an independent board of commissioners, the city council or a combination.

Tacoma, Bainbridge Island, Tukwila and an unincorporated King County area around North Bend have park districts.

Formation of the district can be either through a resolution of the city council or by petition for inclusion on the ballot identifying the district’s boundary, board members and levy rate.