By Erin Freeman | Lynnwood Times Staff
- The 2021-22 budget is 6.4% less than the 2019-20 budget.
- The Parks and Recreation and Cultural Arts Department received an additional $180,000.
- Creation of an Equity and Social Justice program within the Executive Department. However, the city postponed the hiring of the program’s Race and Social Justice coordinator.
- The council adopted a flat property tax levy that will result in a decrease in property tax expenses for the average home by $1.49.
- The city council then approved the elimination of the city’s controversial salary commission.
At the November 23 business meeting, the Lynnwood City Council unanimously adopted its 2021-22 biannual budget, cementing a $112 million spending plan – a 6.4% less reduction from the 2019-20 budget.
For months prior, the city scrambled to address a $7 million shortfall imposed by the coronavirus pandemic, with city staff tasked with cutting costs within their departments by 2.4% to offset it.
Lynnwood Mayor Nicola Smith took a moment to express her gratitude to the city directors and staff for the respective revisions of their departmental budgets, saying that in doing so, they contributed to the delivery of a transformative and balanced budget.
“They’ve worked hard to overcome the financial downturn minimizing COVID-19 financial impacts while preparing a budget that will allow them to continue to move forward in a thoughtful, purposeful, and resilient way,” she said.
Councilmember George Hurst expressed his concerns with the budget before its adoption. Uneasy with the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Arts Department’s significant blows to its revenue and staffing, he is concerned with the decrease in the frequency of maintenance within the city parks.
“We are being asked to pass a budget without any layoffs, with millions of dollars transferred around, and yet we’re asking the citizens of Lynnwood to have parks that are going to suffer maintenance,” said Hurst. “It just doesn’t make sense to me.”
Councilmember Hurst then put forth a motion, which passed 4-3, to provide the Parks and Recreation and Cultural Arts Department with an additional $180,000 to provide funding for B level service for park maintenance through the elimination of a proposed $2 million contribution from the general fund to the economic development infrastructure fund (EDIF). This elimination additionally allows the city to budget $283,000 for Lynnwood to have representation on the Snohomish County Drug Regional Task Force through hiring a local detective and contributing $37,000 to the Parks, Recreation & Cultural Arts Benefit Fund.
Councilmember Hurst’s motion authorizes $1.5 million to be transferred to the city’s Revenue Stabilization Fund, where at the end of 2021, the council will determine if additional transfers to the fund are needed to restore the funds $6 million levels or if transfers to EDIF can resume.
Mayor Smith’s budget proposal also included the creation of an Equity and Social Justice program within the Executive Department to replace the vacant Intergovernmental Relations program. While this program would save the city $6,000, Councilmember Julieta Altamirano-Crosby made a motion, passing 5-2, that the city postpone the hiring of the program’s anticipated Race and Social Justice coordinator. Further research must now be conducted before the position’s hiring, evaluating what the Lynnwood community necessitates from this program and if the job title and duties thus must change.
“We have to make sure that Lynnwood as a city is ready to recognize and serve the diverse communities that are present within our city limits,” she said.
To provide relief during the pandemic to the Lynnwood community, the city council also unanimously adopted a flat property tax levy of $4.3 million for collection – the same levy as in 2020. Yet, the 2021 levy will result in a decrease in property tax expenses for the average home by $1.49. This renders into a levy rate of 54 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, 3 cents lower than the 2020 levy rate of 57 cents.
The city council then approved the elimination of the city’s salary commission 6-1, with councilmember Ruth Ross dissenting. The disbandment follows the salary commission’s October decision for a 10.5% salary increase from $112,278 to $124,107 for the Mayor beginning in 2021, following a letter signed by all of the elected officials, including Mayor Smith, that they did not want an increase in salary due to the financial and budget impacts of COVID-19.
Future Lynnwood City Council Business Meetings, Work Sessions and Committee Meetings can be streamed live by the public at https://www.you- tube.com/user/CityofLynnwood/live.