Tonight Cassie Franklin, Mayor of Everett, Washington gave her fifth budget address to the Everett City Council. You can click below to see the address which runs about fifteen minutes.
Here’s our recap of the address at the Everett City Council meeting.
Mayor Franklin explained that the structural deficit that has been an ongoing issue for the City of Everett for years was impacted by what she said were circumstances beyond the City’s control including the economic and human toll of the pandemic and the highest inflation rate in forty years making services even more expensive to deliver.
The Mayor noted the administration had planned to identify new revenue to create a more sustainable financial future for the city but due to the state of the economy, decided to delay that ask and instead will balance the budget with a series of choices that are short- term, stop gap measures such as putting off maintenance of city buildings and vehicles and deferring payments towards long-term liabilities such as the LEOFF 1 pension fund.
On the positive side the City will be making investments in the community thanks to what she called an unusual amount of federal, state and local grant funds. She stressed that these are rare one-time funds using dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Inflation Reduction Act, among others.
Projects that have been in the planning stages will move forward because of these dollars including replacing the Edgewater Bridge between Everett and Mukilteo and advancing work on a bridge for the Everett Point Industrial Center planned for an area near the Snohomish River by the Delta Railroad Yard. Work will also continue on the Silver Lake Loop Trail and replacing the playground at Thornton A. Sullivan Park.
More Everett Forward Grants will be offered in 2023 to support business owners and also non-profits. There are three grant-funded positions designated in the planning department to help speed applications which will boost development. An engagement coordinator has been hired in planning to assist with the comprehensive plan periodic update. Human needs grants will receive another $100,000.00 of American Rescue Plan Act funds.
Everett will launch a See-Click-Fix app, which will allow residents to report concerns immediately to the City for things like encampments, graffiti, potholes or other hazards or issues. There is also a plan to add public restrooms in downtown Everett.
More mental health professionals will be added to city teams including both the library and the fire department. Both of those departments frequently interact with people experiencing behavioral health issues. By adding mental health professionals to these departments the hope is that will relieve some of the stress put on first responders to cover calls that don’t require an emergency response and free up resources to cover calls that do.
The Mayor did stress that finding people to fill the mental health positions as well as other City vacancies is a challenge so the budget is looking at keeping salaries in Everett competitive to attract workers that cities across the Puget Sound are all in competition against each other for .
The Mayor also said that there is nothing more important to her than ensuring that everyone who works, lives or visits Everett, Washington feels safe and she acknowledged many people in Everett do not feel safe. As a matter of fact, during the public comment portion of the council meeting, four different people from the Delta neighborhood spoke about the need to re-claim Jackson Park citing trauma that many law-abiding citizens are having to deal with following recent recent shootings , open drug use and dealing, illegal camping, prostitution and other issues. One person asked for gates to be installed at the parking areas at Jackson Park such as are found in other City of Everett Parks.
The Mayor said she is working with other Mayors throughout Snohomish County to bring together a new coalition, in partnership with business leaders to advance recommendations and policies to address crime and behavioral health challenges that are contributing to rising crime seen in Everett and virtually every other city in our area.
The Mayor went on to say that sometimes jail is the best short-term solution until someone can recognize the long-term help they need. She emphasized that neither social services nor law enforcement on their own are the answer, but both are needed if progress is to be made.
Susy Haugen from the Finance Department gave City Council members a Revenue and Expenditure Briefing that included an overview of how the administration got to a balanced budget for 2023. (The budget passed for 2022 was $761,494,955.00) The deficit for this year was $13 million dollars and that was brought into balance thanks to more robust than expected sales tax collections, B & O taxes, suspension of LEOFF 1 Pension contributions, deferring vehicle maintenance, increasing vacancy assumptions and prior year carry forwards.
Budget books will be delivered to City Council members on October 13th and also published online and made available at the City Clerk’s Office. Property Tax ordinance and hearings will be held on November 2nd, 9th and 16th and the budget ordinance discussions and public hearings will be held on November 16th, 23rd and 30th with a final vote expected on November 30th. However, the budget deliberations could go into December if the City Council so desires. A balanced budget must be approved by the end of the year per City of Everett Charter.
The Mayor’s full budget message is expected to be posted to the City’s website this week and we will provide a link when it is up.