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Mukilteo delays 2022 budget passage another week

MUKILTEO, Wash., November 20, 2021 – After an over five-hour discussion stretching past midnight, exhausted council members agreed to delay the approval of the 2022 preliminary annual Mukilteo Budget another week, despite the plan to finalize and approve at their Monday meeting, November 15. 

The following 2022 Mukilteo Budget proposals were approved by council during Monday’s meeting:

  • All five staff-recommended items passed unanimously 
    • Lower LEOFF Health Benefit Trust rates ($8,500) 
    • Lower firefighters workers compensation rate ($10,200) 
    • Reduce transfer to street fund ($20,000) 
    • Higher solid waste utility tax ($13,600) 
    • Higher solid waste franchise fee ($11,000)
  • Approved an additional patrol officer at $55,000, passed 5-2
  • Rejected an increase for dog park maintenance of $22,000, passed unanimously 
  • Rejected proposed $40,000 for comprehensive plan outreach, passed unanimously
  • Rejected proposed $45,000 for Engineering & Architect Services to update the transportation element of the comprehensive plan, passed unanimously
  • Rejected the proposed 1% ($58,000) property tax increase, passed unanimously

The decision was made to allow council members more time to consider the list of changes formulated in previous meetings for the 2022 Mukilteo Budget, which include:

  • Transfer Law Enforcement Officer and Fire Fighter (LEOFF) balance to General Fund ($12,854)
  • Cut council travel by $6,000
  • Reduce non-debt Diversity Equity Inclusion (DEI) training ($20,000)
  • Cut fire and other professional services ($3,300)
  • Cut various services in public works ($5,000)
  • Switch to public works electric vehicles to F150 Lightning Pro ($50,000)
  • Cut one of the public works vehicles ($60,000)
  • Cut gun safety initiative ($7,000)
  • Cut any other fee increases except Emergency Medical Service
  • Sell Hawthorne Hall property
  • Rosehill Community Center cuts
  • Economic Development Plan ($40,000)

Mukilteo Budget Vote Recap

Council Vice President Champion began the round of voting by motioning to approve the staff-recommended changes, seconded by Councilmember and Mayor-elect Marine. Councilmember Emery motioned to amend the motion to include the LEOFF balance transfer to the general fund, seconded by Councilmember Harris. The motion, as amended, passed unanimously. 

Councilmember Marine then motioned to eliminate the newly proposed gun safety initiative of $7,000, which was seconded by Councilmember Khan. 

“If we’re trying to save money, I don’t necessarily think there’s a need for that,” Marine spoke of his motion. 

Councilmember Crawford did not support the cut for the gun safety program, adding she believed it would be important to engage with residents and a “great benefit to Mukilteo considering our history,” referring to the 2016 Mukilteo house party shooting

Following Crawford’s opposition, the council members took turns to express why they believed the gun safety initiative is important for public safety.

“I too will passionately disagree with eliminating this initiative,” Council President Kneller added. “I think that as a government body we have a responsibility to provide opportunities for education. . . . I will very much advocate for gun safety in any way the city can support, now and in the future.” 

Police Chief Cheol Kang appeared before council to support the gun safety training program and answered any questions the council members had before Councilmember Marine’s motion to cut the gun safety initiative ultimately failed 2-5 with councilmembers Marine and Khan the only approving votes. 

The addition of an additional police officer for $55,000 was then quickly motioned to approve by Councilmember Marine, seconded by Councilmember Khan. 

Councilmember Emery motioned to amend the motion to include an additional $5,000 for supplies, but there was no second. The motion passed 5-2 with Councilmember Crawford and Council Vice President Champion voting against. Crawford justified her decision by mentioning she would rather see the city focus on fulfilling the current police shortages before allocating funds to add another. 

Following the discussion and vote on the additional patrol officer, Council Vice President Champion motioned to approve switching Public Works vehicles to F150 Lightning Pros, increasing the amount to $100,000. The motion failed 2-5 with council members Champion and Khan the only supporting votes. 

Council proceeded to discuss the reduction of dog park maintenance. 

“I’m not going to support this. I don’t think it’s the right amount, and I don’t think it’s in the right budget,” Emery explained. 

The vote for additional $22,000 in funding for the dog park failed 3-4 with council members Harris, Marine, and Crawford voting in favor and Emery, Champion, Kneller, and Khan voting against. By not approving the additional funding for the dog park, only $500 would be left for the only dog park in the city, which has gained a reputation for flooding and its poor conditions. 

While many council members agreed the dog park was in dire need of restoration, the consensus was that a more concrete dollar amount should be made after assessing what work needs to be done to bring the park up to standard. In line with this, Emery counter-motioned that the city reduce the maintenance funds for the dog park from the budget, but added that city staff be asked to formulate a more concrete number and plan so that council could revisit the issue in the near future. This motion passed unanimously. 

Councilmember Marine continued the voting process by motioning to eliminate funds ($41,700) for the service water condition, seconded by Councilmember Champion. Marine’s reasoning mirrored Emery’s concerns about the dog park funding in that he wished to conduct more research on the new role before allocating funds. 

Councilmember Harris and Council President Kneller both disagreed with Marine’s motion, making the points that they believe council should support and fund city staff. Councilmember Marine’s motion failed 2-5 with council members Marine and Champion the only votes in favor. 

Councilmember Emery then motioned to close the discussion on the property tax levy, seconded by Councilmember Champion. Councilmember Marine motioned not to approve the one percent property tax increase after a brief public comment session and long discussion that lasted nearly an hour. The tax required a vote of five approvals, but the council appeared unsure and split. 

“I will not support the one percent increase, and if it goes through I will not support the budget,” Marine said. 

After council’s contentious discussion, Councilmember Harris motioned to eliminate the property tax increase. Councilmember Emery motioned to amend Harris’ motion to cut the comprehension plan outreach and transportation plan in order to use them as part of an ending fund balance and make up for any losses the one percent tax increase might have brought the city. The motion to the motion, as amended, passed 6-1 with all but Councilmember Champion voting in favor. 

Harris’ main motion to eliminate the proposed 1% property tax increase, passed unanimously, as did the motion to change the language in the budget to a zero percent tax increase, as recommended by Finance Director Shawn Hunstock. 

Council continued to discuss the Emergency Medical Service (EMS) property tax, allowing public comments to address the council. 

“I don’t think there’s any need for a one percent in EMS, or any increase in EMS, and would ask that you would not vote for in favor it. I think you need to be realistic on what EMS is really costing the city,” said Charlie Pancerewski, Mukilteo resident. 

After closing the public hearing, Marine motioned to approve the Emergency Medical Services tax resolution, seconded by Councilmember Emery. 

“I do not have a problem with this at all because this has to do with public safety specifically; it does not go to the general fund,” Marine said. 

The motion passed unanimously. 

In the meeting’s last half hour, council briefly discussed the Economic Development Plan before Councilmember Emery suggested the council leave the last six items in the budget. 

As the meeting was nearing midnight, Councilmember Emery motioned to approve the 2022 final budget, ordinance 1455, with the cut amounts of $14,125 net returning to the general fund, seconded by Council President Kneller. 

Despite Emery’s motion to finalize the 2022 Mukilteo Budget changes, Champion suggested the council not pass the ordinance to have more time to consider the changes and make a formal, more educated decision that did not feel rushed. 

After hearing the council’s support to postpone, Councilmember Emery amended his motion and agreed to postpone the final budget’s approval at a special meeting Monday, November 22, which passed unanimously. 

As expressed by Mayor Gregerson toward the end of the meeting, the item changes that are not approved by council will remain on the 2022 Mukilteo Budget. Under Washington State Law, a council must consider and adopt a budget by December 2nd, thirty days before the fiscal year.

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