EDMONDS — After over seven hours of deliberation spanning one month, Edmonds City Council seemingly closed the book on amendments to the city’s 2022 budget Tuesday night.
“I want to appreciate all the time that everyone has taken — I know it’s been … an inordinate amount of time,” Councilmember Diane Buckshnis said. “I don’t believe this will ever happen again, because I don’t think it will.”
The original budget, with a focus on “green” initiatives, the new police chief’s goals and infrastructure improvements, was adopted in November 2021. Council members heard two budget presentations, led public hearings and continued the discussion at three meetings before its adoption. But after two of Edmonds’ more prominent progressives lost their campaigns to stay on the council, a new council majority moved to revisit the budget once the new councilmembers were sworn in.
They passed an ordinance Tuesday formalizing five changes to the budget.
The council cut plans to hire a permanent full-time Race, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (REDI) program manager, instead opting to contract the manager for three years.
Human Resources Manager Emily Wagener told council it would be harder to hire a person in a contract role. She added that she doesn’t see the city’s need for the position going away after three years.
The council also voted in favor of slashing about $400,000 slated for a “green streets” and rain gardens project, and moving $200,000 from the general fund for the Human Services division to the homelessness fund.
After evaluating dozens of proposed cuts, the council voted to increase appropriations by over $50,000 — adding $34,000 for the Fourth Avenue cultural corridor project and $20,000 to hire a full time senior planner at the at the top step of the salary range.
After meetings Feb. 1, Feb. 8, Feb. 15, Feb. 17 and Feb. 22, the budget amendment process reduced proposed 2022 spending by about $400,000, Finance Director Dave Turley told The Daily Herald. But council members said they’re going to revisit the green streets program and possibly put it back in the budget — making the savings net zero.
City department directors reappeared during many of the meetings to restate their needs — like money to complete projects to repair failing infrastructure, or expand access to basic needs for unhoused Edmonds residents. Directors returned to council meetings to justify why they need money to hire an additional person to help manage over 40 ongoing projects, or to secure the police station with a fence. Some of their pitches were repeated from the original budget process, Councilmember Laura Johnson said.
“I’d be curious to know how much this is costing the city of Edmonds in staff time and in council time, frankly, to actually relook at all these issues,” said former councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas during the Feb. 22 meeting. “I think it’s important to know that the staff are great, they work very, very hard for us, and to see them constantly be brought back and battered from some council members regarding the issues within their budgets, I think, is just a travesty to do to our staff.”
Councilmembers Buckshnis and Kristiana Johnson spearheaded efforts to reopen the budget, arguing it needed further vetting. And freshman Councilmember Neil Tibbott said his goals were removing excessive or unnecessary items, to exert discipline in already-approved budget areas, and to require further explanation before approving infrastructure improvements with “big price tags.”
Mayor Mike Nelson said some city projects and purchases were on hold for weeks as a result of reopened budget talks. In the end, council members only approved a handful of the over 30 proposed amendments.
Some of the proposed amendments — like removing $270,180 to purchase a police perimeter fence and eliminating $440,000 to begin work to fix two city reservoirs built in 1973 and 1976 — were unanimously voted down.
It’s not unusual for cities to revisit and revise budget plans, though Edmonds never really wrapped up its process in the first place.
The budget will likely be back on the agenda in a month, for first quarter amendments.
“At the end of the day,” City Council members “supported all of the programs — almost all of the programs — we initiated, so I’m very appreciative of that,” Nelson said. “And I’m focusing on moving forward.”