The Lynnwood Transportation Benefit District’s revenue from vehicle registration fees and a sales tax percentage helped fund work on 196th Street SW, as seen here in October 2021 . (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

The Lynnwood Transportation Benefit District’s revenue from vehicle registration fees and a sales tax percentage helped fund work on 196th Street SW, as seen here in October 2021 . (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Lynnwood council delays budget vote amid questions on worker wages

Council members have had 11 meetings on the nearly $550M spending plan. They’ll have two more before acting on it.

LYNNWOOD — Concerns about proposed salaries for city workers caused the Lynnwood City Council to delay a final vote on its proposed $545.5 million biennial budget this week.

The council was on course to act in its Monday meeting — its 11th budget discussion — before detouring into an impromptu executive session to talk about the wage schedule. When council members emerged, they put off a decision on adopting a schedule. After discussing other elements of the spending plan they voted unanimously to postpone action until Dec. 12.

Garnering most of the attention Monday were the property tax levy, employee salaries and a proposed $2 million infusion to the streets budget.

Mayor Christine Frizzell proposed a property tax levy that would garner $5 million in revenue in 2023, $500,000 more than this year.

The council took issue with the increased collections.

“It sounds like a little amount, but what bothers me the most is … government is saying, ‘We need money more than you do,’ to the city of Lynnwood,” Council member Jim Smith said. “We’re in a recession. Inflation is skyrocketing. Some of the most vulnerable people are hurting, but now, in this day and age, the middle class is hurting, too.”

Smith made a motion to keep the level of collections from the levy unchanged in 2023, an estimated $4.5 million. It was approved unanimously by the council.

Council members Shannon Sessions and Josh Binda each said that although the reduction is best due to the impending recession, the sacrificed revenue will need to be made up in other ways — either now or in the future.

On another matter, City Council President George Hurst proposed transferring $2 million from unallocated Transportation Benefit District money to the streets fund. It would pay for work on bike lanes, roads and sidewalks.

“We will have provided $4.5 million more to the Street Operating Fund than what was requested by the mayor in her proposed budget,” Hurst said.

The vote on that infusion will be held Dec. 12.

Council members went into executive session prior to discussing in detail an ordinance setting the salary schedule for 2023. When they emerged they agreed to not act.

“I’d like to remind council members that matters of executive session are private and shall not be spoken of from the dais or anywhere,” Frizzell said upon returning.

An executive session mid-meeting is unusual, but legal in this case, according to the Washington Coalition for Open Government.

Subsequently, the council pushed a decision for two weeks for more conversations.

“What happens if we don’t pass this this year,” Sessions asked.

To avoid any undesired consequences, the Lynnwood City Council’s goal is to act before the end of the year. Tentative final budget talks will be held Dec. 5 and 12 at Lynnwood City Hall.

Kayla J. Dunn: 425-339-3449; kayla.dunn@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @KaylaJ_Dunn.

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