Letters: Budget and PUD

Oct 24, 2018

No Budget surprises

 

The mayor’s 2019 Budget letter says it is balanced and has no surprises. Sounds great following the mid-year financial review when the council was told 2018 revenues and expenses were tracking budget and there were no significant problems.

If you dig through the 160 page Budget for 2019, there are a few things that might be surprises.

The city’s real estate taxes are going up about $600,000 next year. The one percent annual rate increase cities are permitted without voter approval was accumulated and not used in recent years. It will all be used starting in 2019.

Water/sewer taxes are going up about $200,000 in 2019. Another similar increase was approved for 2020.

After doubling surface water fees in 2016, more increases were scheduled for each of the next 5 years when fees will be triple what they were in 2015.

Was all this new revenue needed to balance the budget? Apparently, but it was not enough.

Long standing policy is to set aside money each year in the Equipment Replacement Fund to purchase all city vehicles like fire engines, ambulances, police cars, trucks, and other large equipment. The annual set aside is estimated to accumulate the total needed to make these planned equipment purchases. In prior years more than $500,000 was set aside each year.

In 2018 and the 2019 Budget no additional money was set aside. I asked how the Equipment Replacement Fund was going to continue funding projected future replacements. No answer yet.

At last week’s council presentation, the Finance Director said the city did not have the funds to set aside more for future equipment replacement. General Fund revenues equal expenditures after large tax increases and by not putting money into the Equipment Replacement Fund. The General Fund has more than $3,000,000 that is unallocated but using it would not permit saying the Budget is balanced.

The mayor’s Budget wants to spend $70,000 for vehicle battery charging stations - four of them at City Hall. A Budget priority?

Good news - the total annual Fire Department budget, which includes EMS, is spending only $37,439 more in 2019 than in 2018.

Stay tuned, more to come.

 

Charlie Pancerzewski

Twice Former Councilmember

Mukilteo

 

 

PUD candidate endorsements

 

The Snohomish County PUD Commission is a 3-member board with two positions on the ballot this November, and the stakes could not be higher. As the body that determines what energy we invest in and what rates we pay, the Commission steers energy policy for Snohomish County.

In Mary Rollins and Rebecca Wolfe, voters have the opportunity to elect representatives focused on conservation, efficiency, and responsible oversight.

Mary Rollins (Position 1) and Rebecca Wolfe (Position 2) are the only candidates focused on energy efficiency as a leading source of increasing capacity. I look forward to casting my vote for Commissioners who will focus on optimizing and maximizing current resources, and be wary of large investments in untested technology.

Only Rollins and Wolfe dually support Initiative 1631, aligning with leaders like Bill Gates in recognizing the potential economic and environmental benefits of putting a cost on pollution. The two are also dual-endorsed by WA State Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club. As a millennial who has seen their peers lose faith in government, I look forward to casting my vote for representatives who serve the public unapologetically.

With Rebecca Wolfe and Mary Rollins, voters elect a board that is educated in and experienced with public policy, law, and climate science. Countries are not companies. The purpose of our public utility commission should be the long-term provision of energy and water that maximizes resources for the long-term, not a short-term game of cost-cutting and rate hikes. If the question comes of whether we buy LNG-powered energy from Tacoma, how we cut costs on water treatment, or whether we prioritize the environment in decision-making, it would be comforting to have long-term, scientifically-minded representatives making decisions in the best interest of the public.

Washington State has always been a leader in technology and policy. This November voters have the opportunity to ensure the Snohomish County PUD is as well, by voting for Wolfe & Rollins.

 

Kristina Melnichenko

Mukilteo

 

 

 

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