City’s failure to plan for future surprising | Council Corner

Join me in voting yes on sales tax to maintain our roads
By Randy Lord | City Council Position 3 | Oct 04, 2017
Randy Lord

To my Mukilteo neighbors and friends: I am swiftly coming to the end of my third and final term and wanted to offer a few thoughts to all of you.

First of all, I want to extend my sincere gratitude for the support and trust you extended to me over these last 12 years. It has been very rewarding for me to represent all of you and our beautiful little city, with many successful parks and buildings completed that we can all be proud of, but now it is time for new faces and ideas to continue to move us forward.

Before I go, I wanted to share some of my observations while I was on the council, plus maybe some thoughts on where we should be concentrating our efforts for our future.

My biggest observation – no, surprise – is that after many years as a member of, and chair of, the Finance Committee and Long Range Financial Planning Committee, I really learned how little spare or discretionary money we had available for those special things we wanted to do.

If you consider salaries, mandatory projects for state and/or federal mandates, and contractual obligations, we only have about 10-15 percent of the budget that isn't already spoken for. That doesn't leave that much for us to do anything of significance. Oh, and all that extra money in the budget that is just excess? It's not there.

In fact, ever since the Great Recession, where we significantly cut our budgets across the board for years, we are now underfunding most of our departments, and have been historically underpaying our managers and staff for years. As our revenues are beginning to return, we are steadily working to create more competitive salaries to ensure staff retention, but we still have more to go.

My second biggest surprise is that Mukilteo does not have a sustainable plan for the long-term maintenance of our city. When I first joined the council 12 years ago, since everything looked like it was well maintained, I thought we had plans and funding in place to take care of our buildings, parks and roads. I was wrong.

For our roads, we were just patching the holes and hoping for major grants to handle the big roads – only Harbour Pointe Boulevard and 5th Street qualify for state and federal grants; all others are our responsibility. We need to maintain our roads to make sure that they never get so bad that we have to replace them, which is much more expensive.

To help illustrate the concept, it's similar to regularly changing the oil in your car every 5,000 miles so you don't have to replace the engine, or worse, replace the car.

About eight years ago, the council and administration began a pavement management program – think oil changes only – that our budget could afford, which was chip-sealing the roads. It became such a volatile issue that it was stopped, and we have effectively done nothing for the last four years.

Now I am hearing, “the roads look great, let's wait.” But that's like waiting until after your car starts making that funny noise to change the oil. It's too late.

And that gets us to my thoughts on where we should be concentrating our efforts for our future. We need to adequately fund our city at a sustainable level to ensure that the buildings, parks and roads we leave our children and grandchildren will be just as beautiful and maintained as they are today.

That brings us to the ballot issue we face this November. After spending most of last year with an investigation team (WITT), we learned that simply maintaining the roads – with no funding for the more costly repairs – would cost about $900,000 per year ¬– much greater than what we are currently spending, which is around $450,000.

I encourage all of you to vote for Proposition 1, which collects a significant amount of money each year for a 10-year period to cover a large portion of the current shortfall. Since that money must go into the transit-related maintenance fund, we can rest assured that it will only be spent on our roads, sidewalks and bike lanes.

Please join me in making Mukilteo a shining example of how our citizens decided to invest in the future before it was too late.

Thank you, again, for your support over the years; I am honored and proud to have been your councilor.

 

Randy Lord has served on the City Council since 2006. Previously, he was a member of the city’s Parks and Arts Commission for 12 years. Lord has lived in the Harbour Pointe area of Mukilteo since 1986.

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