The vote, the budget, the sandbox

By Kevin Stoltz | Nov 10, 2010


The Vote

This month I have to start by congratulating and thanking Mukilteo voters for your wise decision to keep red-light cameras out of Mukilteo and your advisory decision against moving forward with annexation.

The message from the voters was clear and while I’m sure the will of the people will be followed regarding red-light cameras, it will be very interesting to see how the Mayor and council respond to the no annexation vote.

As one of the elected who was in the minority on both these issues (against red-light cameras and opposed to the current annexation plan), it’s nice to know that while I may be in the minority of the elected, my position is shared by the majority of Mukilteo voters.

Hopefully, moving forward, the elected majority won’t be so quick to dismiss our concerns.

Thank you Mukilteo voters!


The Budget

The 2011 budget hearings are now underway. The council receives the mayor’s proposed 2011 budget, conducts public hearings, and approves the proposed budget with modifications.

Municipal budgeting is a complex process and despite the 175 page 2011 Preliminary Budget book, it’s not easy to find the detail necessary to make informed changes to the budget.

According to the 2011 preliminary budget, the general fund will be operating at a $686,640 deficit.

The new term being used is “gap” but is still defined as the amount that expenses exceed revenues.

For now we can operate the general fund in deficit mode because the ending balance (money in the bank) with deficit spending is $4 million.

Similarly, the REET (Real Estate Excise Tax) funds will be operating at a combined deficit of $827,400 with a combined ending fund balance of $4.9 million.

An important objective of the long range financial policy recently adopted by the council is to eliminate the deficit spending before the city runs out of money to cover it.

The 2011 preliminary budget starts with a “baseline” defined as the 2010 budget less any one-time expenditures.

Unfortunately, this means the baseline budget by definition includes all expenses in the previous years budget (less “one-time expenses”) without much detail for the council to use to evaluate any potential efficiency improvements.

 

The reason I point out the deficit, fund balances, and baseline budget anomalies is to hopefully put in perspective some of the debate you will ultimately be observing or hearing about over the next month or so.

Even though the preliminary budget presented includes significant deficit spending, any increases initiated by the council, no matter how small, tend to have “what are we going to cut?” or “what taxes are going to be increased?” attached.

So with all that said, here are a few changes to the proposed budget I’d like to see happen:

1) Staff layoffs and/or furloughs are a last resort. Especially considering all the things we need to get done.

2) Fund the Paine Field legal defense fund adequately with the stipulation that it not be used for non-legal defense activities like the $17,500 per month expense previously incurred.

3) Eliminate the $90,000 a year federal lobbyist. It’s been two years without any visible return on investment.

4) Implement the Mukilteo Park & Ride/Overnight parking pilot project at the corner of SR-525 and Bernie Webber Drive.

5) Any tax increases (including the proposed 1 percent on property taxes) should be specified for public safety/transportation improvement projects such as: the park and ride, alternate pedestrian/vehicle access to the waterfront/Lighthouse Park, long overdue sidewalks on 88th Street, improve pedestrian safety along SR-525 between 92nd Street and the waterfront, and the left-turn lane at the intersection of SR-525 and 88th Street.

6) Fund/organize a capital campaign to build a gym in the new community center that we’ll be losing when Rosehill is torn down.

7) Throw volunteer groups, who actually make Mukilteo a better place to live, a bone.

Of course there are many more and it’s unlikely that even these will be accomplished, but you get the idea.


The Sandbox

A good friend of mine once told me that politics is like a sandbox. If the other kids will let you play in the sandbox, you’ll do fine. If not… well it’s hard to get things done.

Throughout the past year I’ve been trying to play well in the Mukilteo political sandbox. I’ve been getting some things done, but I’ve also backed off on some things that I believed (and now know) are important to our community.

Maybe I haven’t been trying hard enough to play in the sandbox, but I think the other kids are letting their cats use the sandbox because it’s starting to smell.

The preceding feature is published the second Wednesday of each month for The Beacon and is the opinion of Kevin Stoltz and may or may not represent the views of the Mukilteo City Council.

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