Council approves 2018 budget

 

December 13, 2017

Randy Lord

Mukilteo’s City Council unanimously adopted Mukilteo’s 2018 budget at a special meeting last Wednesday, Dec. 6, after weeks of public hearings and discussions.

Mukilteo Finance Director Michelle Meyer took part in the discussions, using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet to track cuts and additions each councilmember wanted to put in the budget.

Councilmember Randy Lord led the council in voting on individual issues that they wanted to change for the amended budget. Lord has taken part in the budgetary process for 12 years, and this was his last budget meeting.

Amendments with at least four votes were added to a column titled, “majority,” which were added to the budget.

After councilmembers finished their deliberations, they approved their budget changes with an agreement that Mayor Jennifer Gregerson would find another $2,271 to cut in order to balance the budget.

Some good news for citizens is that the only tax increase in 2018 is the 0.1 percent increase in sales tax to help fund pavement preservation.

Voters approved the tax increase in November’s election.

“The mayor and many councilmembers wanted to adopt a budget that did not include a general property tax increase, and they were able to accomplish that, which is probably the biggest highlight of the 2018 budget,” Meyer said.

“Some citizens reached out to the governing body about keeping the large item pickup in the budget, and they spent last Monday and Wednesday evenings finding a way to get that included while still maintaining a balanced budget, so I think that is a highlight as well.”


The large item pickup costs the city roughly $50,000 each year, but all seven councilmembers agreed the city needed to keep it for 2018.

“I really think it’s something that our residents truly look forward to as part of the branding of Mukilteo,” Councilmember Christine Cook said at the Nov. 27 meeting. “That we take care of our neighborhoods and we have a lot of folks who participate.”

One of the larger cuts to the proposed budget was removing the Policy Analyst position held by Marko Liias, a state senator, who has held the position since 2014.

The city expects to save $89,000 by removing the position’s salary and benefits. Instead, the city plans on using more outside consultants to help the executive department.

The council also moved to reduce the city’s salary savings, which helps prepare for turnover in the city’s staff.

“The way Mukilteo chooses to show the savings from turnover is to budget for 100 percent of salaries and benefits throughout the different departments, but then plug a negative amount to show that we don’t anticipate spending all of the dollars that were budgeted,” Meyer said.


Khan Mukilteo Strong

“The budget that the council adopted on Wednesday included lowering the expected total salary savings by $111,000 from $501,022 to $390,022,” she said. “This equates to a 4.3 percent vacancy savings rate for the general fund for 2018.”

An issue of debate was the cost of council travel and retreats.

These were initially proposed at $24,200 in total for 2018, but some councilmembers thought it was too high, and some of those travels weren’t very beneficial.

“I went to D.C.,” Councilmember Scott Whelpley said at the Dec. 4 meeting. “Why couldn’t we visit our senators and our congressman when they are in town?

“I know when I went up there, and I know that I’m not going to travel again, and I realized, ‘What are we doing out here?’ We talked to people for maybe five to 10 minutes, and we really didn’t get to talk to as many people as we wanted to.”

Whelpley also said that a lot of times when councilmembers travel, they don’t share what they learned on their trip, so it’s not as beneficial as it should be.

Councilmember Cook feels that there is great value in the trips and that it’s important that Mukilteo has “a place at the table,” but agreed with Whelpley that there needs to be more transparency about what they learn on their trips.

Council President Bob Champion disagreed with reducing the council’s travel budget, and argued that during their trips they were able to ensure funding for projects like the Japanese Gulch through connections at a lot of events such as the one in D.C.


Retain Judge Okoloko

Ultimately, the council ended up reducing travel by $6,400, training and registration by $3,000 and council retreats by $1,000, for $10,400 in savings from the proposed budget to the amended budget.

There was also late debate regarding the use of $40,000 the city expects to gain from right-of-way vacations on 5th Street, which was brought up by Councilmember Richard Emery.

Two neighbors own houses on 5th Street, and their garages are technically in the street’s right-of-way. They want to pay to make those garages part of their private property.

Councilmember Emery proposed using that money to install charging stations for electric cars at City Hall, Lighthouse Park and 92nd Street Park.

“I think this is an opportunity to do some stuff that other cities have been doing,” Emery said. “We’re a little bit behind on some of this … I think this is an amenity for our community that would be appreciated.”

Emery also said he would like to use any leftover funds after adding the charging stations to install solar panels at Lighthouse Park to help charge the Parks Department’s new electric utility vehicle.

Council Vice President Steve Schmalz said the council should look more closely into the costs of charging stations and solar panels before agreeing to spend $40,000 on them.

“I’m not sure what the cost is to maintain these over a period of time,” Schmalz said. “I understand the need for it and your request. I would entertain a future discussion when you get more information.”

Two motions followed, one by Emery to use the projected $40,000 for charging stations and solar panels and one by Schmalz for moving the $40,000 into the fund for facility renewal.

Schmalz’s motion failed 4-3, with Whelpley, Councilmember Ted Wheeler and Schmalz voting for his motion.

Schmalz then said he would support Emery’s motion if they added an amendment to not spend more than $40,000 initially, which ended up passing unanimously.

This was the last budget meeting for councilmembers Lord and Wheeler, who are retiring after 2017.

Author Bio

Brandon Gustafson, Editor, Mukilteo Beacon

Brandon Gustafson was named editor of the Mukilteo Beacon in October, 2017. Born and raised in Mukilteo, Brandon attended Mukilteo Elementary, Olympic View Middle School, and Kamiak High School, graduating in 2013. After high school, Brandon attended Shoreline Community College, earning his associate's degree while playing for the school's baseball team. He then transferred to the University of Washington, where he graduated in 2017 with a bachelor's degree in communications-journalism.

Email: mukilteoeditor@yourbeacon.net
Phone: 425-347-5634
Twitter: @MukBeaconBPG

 

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