Everett budget doubles development funds

EVERETT — Mayor Frank Anderson on Wednesday unveiled the document that became the main issue in next week’s mayoral race long before it was sent to the printers: the city’s 2004 budget.

Taking notes in the audience at the City Council chambers was Anderson’s opponent, former City Councilman Ray Stephanson, who has been hammering Anderson for weeks for using part of the city’s surplus to balance the budget. The election is Tuesday.

Little in the budget is a surprise, because city budget director Travis Earl gave council members an early look at it in August. That preview included only general estimates. The inch-thick document handed out Wednesday goes into a department-by-department and fund-by-fund breakdown of how much the city expects to take in during 2004 and how much it expects to spend.

Although Anderson asked almost every department to not increase spending, his budget more than doubles spending for the economic development department, from $158,000 this year to $352,000 in 2004. The money was shifted from other city departments, he said.

Part of that increase reflects the creation in March of the new economic development department, which has one full-time director and three part-time employees. The increase also will be used to more aggressively market the city to potential businesses and developers. Anderson said he saw the money as an investment that will reap long-term economic benefits for the city.

"We have to have people represent the city at trade shows, to talk to investors and developers," he said. "This expense will certainly pay off. We need to diversify our economy."

Anderson pointed out that other cities in the state and the Snohomish County government are cutting services and laying off employees to balance their budgets. Anderson required almost every city department to freeze spending, and decided not to fill 19 vacant positions. But there will be no cuts in programs and no layoffs, he said.

"To be able to present to the city a budget like this in this economic climate — the city should have a parade," Anderson said. "It’s so positive."

Stephanson wasn’t so sanguine. Using almost $4.8 million of the city’s $22.4 million surplus to balance the budget is fiscally irresponsible, he said, because it could lead to a need for severe program cuts and layoffs in the future. The city should cut spending by $4.8 million now rather than use part of the surplus, he said.

The budget anticipates revenues of nearly $91.5 million in 2004 and expenses of more than $96.2 million.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the budget in December.

Reporter David Olson: 425-339-3452 or dolson@heraldnet.com.

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