Everett trying to stay on course with its budget
EVERETT — Mayor Cassie Franklin’s proposed $543.7 million budget avoids service cuts, and it continues the city's work on homelessness, affordable housing and climate change.
Not in the picture is asking for a levy lid lift by way of a ballot measure. It would have increased property taxes greater than the state's 1% limit if voters approved and bring in $6 million more to the city. The city is holding off due to the rocky economy.
To help balance things, Franklin's budget proposes to skip contributing to its LEOFF 1 police and fire pension funds, delay buying new vehicles and slow down spending toward maintaining city buildings.
Franklin described these as "short-term, stopgap measures" since the city isn't asking for the property tax levy lift right now.
On LEOFF 1, it goes against a committal the City Council tried to put in place last year to earmark contributing $5 million into the account each year through 2030 to cover future liabilities.
Some $5 million is being set aside as a safety net for possible increased labor costs as all but one labor union is in contract negotiations, from a budget balance sheet presented by the city's finance team.
Meanwhile, Everett is joining mayors and law enforcement officials who are calling on state legislators to refine last year's police reform laws.
Franklin devoted a section of her budget address to public safety.
“Right now, I know many of us do not feel safe,” the mayor said in her address.
Police officers need the flexibility to enforce laws, Franklin said, and “sometimes jail is the short-term answer.”
The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office spread a video a day later calling for legislative changes to help address emboldened criminals. Franklin spoke in the video.
Next year, the city will introduce an online service where people can report homeless encampments, potholes, graffiti and more by smartphone app or on the city website. It’s going to do a citywide tree inventory and tree-planting initiative. It’s also adding public restrooms downtown. Those may open summer 2023, city spokesman Julio Cortes said.
The city has no plans to reopen its own pool at Forest Park unless a private partner steps in. The Carl Gipson Center operates this way today: Volunteers of America manages operations there.
The city made arrangements for residents to use the Everett Y pool at discounted rates with no YMCA membership required. The Y is at 4730 Colby Ave.
Franklin said the city’s financial situation of being in a structural deficit — where the cost of running the city exceeds earnings — was further affected by things outside of its control such as the economic downturn. The city's been talking about its structural deficit for more than 10 years now.
The city’s general fund, for day-to-day expenses, is budgeted at $155.3 million in expenditures. 2023 revenues for the general fund are projected at $149.8 million.
By holding on costs and experiencing more favorable sales tax returns than expected, the city overcame a $13 million deficit for 2023.
Everett remains on an overall cashflow-negative trajectory. In 2024, Everett is projected to face a $6.4 million deficit in its general fund, as of Sept. 21 figures, and proposes skipping the LEOFF 1 contribution that year, too. In 2025, its deficit on paper grows past $14 million.
Cities are required to produce a balanced budget annually, and cannot run deficits.
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