Budget process continues
EVERETT - The City Council is winding through a process to address the city’s perennial and growing structural deficit in the budget, but some of the options are not easy.
Closing the Forest Park Swim Center, eliminating the library bookmobile, shuttering Walter E. Hall Golf Course and levying utility taxes for garbage and cable TV service are some of the city’s biggest-ticket options.
Implementing a $20 a year car tab fee and creating a $3 a month membership fee to the Carl Gipson Senior Center are some other possibilities.
The full list of possibilities is on the city’s website at http://www.everettwa.org/default.aspx?ID=2177 and a link on the city website's front page. The public is encouraged to comment, and two public input meetings are scheduled for May.
Council members were concerned by the sticker shock of levying cable and garbage taxes. The city currently doesn’t tax these services, but most nearby cities do.
If the tax was 6 percent, it would raise the average family’s utility bill by approximately $12.60 a month, according to the city finance department.
“Those are steep,” Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher responded.
Councilman Ron Gipson provided a list of about a dozen alternative ideas to prune the budget.
Among Gipson’s ideas are pairing with the Everett School District to pay toward the Forest Park Swim Center to prevent high school swim teams from losing their practice site, selling an unused 7.5 acre patch of city land near Silver Lake, having volunteers handle the summertime petting zoo and relocating it to the Animal Shelter and readdressing medical insurance coverage.
Gipson also repeated a past concern of his to end Everett’s contribution to Community Transit’s Swift bus rapid transit system. Everett Transit gives up one-twelfth of its sales tax revenue toward Community Transit’s Swift, amounting to about $1 million each year, depending on revenues.
Community Transit has said before that if Everett ceased contributing money it likely would adjust Swift to not come to Everett.
Other council members have offered suggestions as well, but those were not readily available at press time.
One of the biggest items not widely discussed during last week’s meeting was a suggestion to cut labor costs by $4 million, which equivocates to close to 50 positions, according to the city..
The city has cut 25 vacant positions since 2009, but not had a single layoff.
Labor represents 70 percent of the budget.
Gipson said he can’t support a proposed Carl Gipson Senior Center fee because he fears low-income seniors may be left excluded.
“Just because my father’s name’s on it isn’t why I’m arguing on it,” Gipson said.
The city could give a low-income discount, structural deficit point person Paul Kaftanski said.
If the city did nothing, the budget gap could grow to $21 million by 2018.
There have been increasingly urgent calls the past few years that the city’s budget deficit is not sustainable, and the issue culminated in a statement from Mayor Ray Stephanson last month calling for budget fixes.
Tell the city
The city has two public input meetings scheduled on the budget gap.
One meeting is scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday, May 8 at Evergreen Middle School, 7621 Beverly Lane.
The second metting is scheduled from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday, May 13 at Everett Community College’s Jackson Conference Center, 2000 Tower St.
Both metings will start with an open house at 5:30 p.m. before discussing the budget.
The city also has a feedback form on its main budget page.
People who have any questions or feedback on the budget process can write an email to the Mayor’s Office via
firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 425-257-7115.