COVID recovery funds increase city budget in 2023 – but they won’t last – My Edmonds News | CarTailz

How much money does it take to run the city of Edmonds?

The proposed budget for next year exceeds $114 million. Right now, that’s $3 million more than the city will have in revenue in 2023. But until the final figures are approved, by law it will be a balanced budget.

Mayor Mike Nelson delivers his 2023 budget address.

Mayor Mike Nelson expressed his hopes in his Oct. 3 budget message to residents:

“After three years of COVID, now more than ever is the time to invest in our city. With strong sales tax revenues, a significant city surplus, and funding for the federal bailout plan, we are in a great position to invest in the people and our city while maintaining a balanced budget.”

These investments include:

“Significant increase in public safety”

“Improving Our Quarters”

Offering more to “our most underserved community” on Highway 99

What are some of these critical projects? How much might they cost? And how long can Edmonds count on this federal COVID recovery funding to pay some big bills?

Edmonds has received a total of $12 million in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Some were issued in 2021 and some this year. For the next year, the city anticipates $3.9 million of these ARPA funds.

Federal ARPA money for the city:

-$1,385,000 for new maintenance, equipment and personnel for Civic Park and Highway 99 improvements

– $1,315,000 for the police force – new cars, patrol support and expansion of the criminal investigation department.

That $2.7 million for two municipalities is 67% of the available $4 million in federal money included in the Edmonds budget in 2023.

Significant increase in public safety:

The police department’s budget proposal includes the recruitment of six new patrol officers and the addition of two additional detectives and a crime analyst to the department’s criminal investigation unit. It will also hire a full-time administrative assistant for the deputy chiefs and command staff.

But the department isn’t using the ARPA money for that. Salaries and benefits come from the general fund. The federal dollars will purchase and outfit nine new patrol cars and add equipment and systems for the criminal investigation unit and patrol support personnel.

Edmond’s Police Chief Michelle Bennett

Chief Michelle Bennett has already proposed a new chain of command – creating the rank of commander as a middle-level manager in addition to the two assistant chiefs hired last year. Previously, the staff was deployed as patrol officers, non-commissioned officers, non-commissioned officers, then deputy chief. Commanders are expected to oversee the patrol division, detectives and crime analysis, and administrative staff.

Further changes are already in the works: the department has reinstated the entire traffic unit; police will start carrying body cameras in early 2023; Police have re-equipped the dive team and six officers are now certified as bike patrol with the purchase of six bikes.

Bennett told the City Council during a Nov. 2 budget presentation that the department had seen many more assaults and injuries by officers; The incidence of physical violence against officers has increased from 31 in 2015 to 80 last year. What she described as an “impact” force against officers has doubled from 11 to 20 in the same time span.

She told council members she did not want to link this violence to recent changes in police laws. “I don’t want to make a direct connection to new laws or anti-police sentiment, but if I had to hazard a guess, you can see that in some cases those numbers have doubled over the past few years,” she said.

For the first time since 1992, the department hires its first police cadet; It is a paid internship usually offered to college students. Bennett wants to reinstate the Police Explorer program in high schools, and a community academy has also been launched.

The Police Department’s continued goals include reducing crime and the fear of crime, improving road safety, and responding and resolving emergency calls and incidents safely, effectively and efficiently. The boss also added new goals: working with the community to fight crime; recruit, train and promote the best applicants for open positions; and provide the equipment and technology to get the job done.

On Tuesday evening, November 15, the city council will hold its first public budget hearing. The city has already opened the budget process to questions from the public. You can find it here along with the full budget proposals.

One of the first questions on the city’s Q&A website is: Similar to Chief Bennett’s request for new vehicles (to be paid for by ARPA), can ARPA funding be used to pay for the (Parks) maintenance vehicles?

City answer: Yes, we have extremely high discretion and can spend up to $10 million (in total) of ARPA funds on just about anything.”

Edmonds has budgeted $630,000 in federal funds to purchase the new police cars and $220,000 to expand the CID department. Patrol assistance totals $420,000 in federal funds, and new park maintenance services use an additional $285,000 from the federal fund.

Another question from the city’s Q&A site: “my concern that we buy them (police cars) with one time dollars (ARPA). With all vehicles in the fleet on a set replacement schedule, I feel like in a single year we are adjusting for future issues that we cannot handle.”

City response:Not true, we are not anticipating future spending in a single year to replace these vehicles.” The response explains that city governments already pay a fee into a “fleet fund” for each vehicle they operate. This money is used to pay for maintenance and also to ‘pre-finance’ future replacement costs.

What happens when the federal money is gone – how does the city pay in the long term?

All remaining federal ARPA dollars must be allocated by the city before the end of 2024 and spent by December 2026. However, the salaries and benefits of the new parks are a long-term commitment. This also applies to park maintenance for Civic Field and Highway 99 improvements. This also applies to the maintenance and replacement of police equipment, new cars, technology and other items. How will the city pay for these salaries, benefits and maintenance costs in the long term?

Administrative Services Director Dave Turley oversees the city’s budget planning. He told us that because of COVID, “we’ve never had these circumstances, this type of experience before.” Keep in mind that Edmonds will receive a total of $12 million in federal funds from ARPA.

Turley said the city has budgeted federal money to pay for four out of six new park maintenance jobs. At a salary of $63,000 per person plus benefits, that’s just over $300,000 a year. He also told us that all federal ARPA funds must be spent by 2026. So we did our own calculations, and once the federal money runs out in three years, the City Council will have to figure out how to keep these employees doing the work. And ongoing maintenance of the Civic Field and Highway 99 facilities will be costly. Where will the money come from?

The police department doesn’t use the ARPA money for new hires, but again, once the federal money has dried up, the city will have to cover long-term maintenance of the police vehicles, new equipment, technology, and things that ARPA isn’t paying for now. The city needs to find that money in general funds because there will be no more Uncle Sam gift of $1.3 million. And Turley believes demand for police services will continue to grow.

On the city’s Q&A page, Councilor Will Chen asked about another issue, a proposed increase in utility fees for sewage and water: “EVU tariff increase of 5% without tariff study. When will the tariff study be carried out?”

city ​​answer – “A tariff study is not yet planned. It is to be planned for early 2023.”

Turley told us that the utility rate increase study should have been conducted this fall. But at that time the Public Works Department did not have a new director. Turley believes that with inflation at 8-9% last year the department had no choice but to budget for a rate hike; If it’s not enough to cover water and sanitation costs, the municipality can increase the rate next year.

Council President Vivian Olson questioned budget issues related to the modernization of the wastewater treatment plant:

“The story about our carbon recovery wastewater treatment plant upgrade is getting worse and worse. At last night’s council meeting, Director Antillon said the construction phase will “probably” be completed by the end of the year. Actually it should be finished now. In addition, he said that the commissioning and operational status of the plant will not come until June 2023. Another three month delay from the previous (late) date of March. He also suggested he was likely to return to the council for additional funding for the project. How much more?”

City answer:

“Currently I do not have an amount for possible cost increases. We review all pending change requests, and some may result in valid cost increases. The quality control and construction management documentation is not very detailed or gives me a good level of confidence and given the complexity of the project it might be a good idea to hire a designee to ensure someone with that expertise can review each system before we do it accept .”

There is still a lot to do before the city can approve next year’s budget. It may be, as the mayor pointed out, that “with strong sales tax revenues, a significant city surplus, and funding for the federal bailout plan, we are in a great position to invest in the people and our city.”

But when the federal government’s money is gone — not just for Edmonds, but for thousands of other communities — there are still bills to be paid. The remaining question: Can Edmonds turn the “great position” it’s in now into a long-term funding plan?

— By Bob Throndsen

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