Everett budget cuts public meetings May 8, 13
EVERETT — Taxing residents to maintain Everett’s parks and handing over the local library system to the regional Sno-isle Library system are two major items the city is studying.
These big shifts are among the wide range of ideas being considered to help the city shake its persistent and growing structural deficit. The bottom line to fix the deficit, poised to reach $13 million in 2015, is the city has to either cut services, cut personnel or raise more tax revenue.
Last week the City Council put these ideas under a microscope to see if they’re worth studying.
The public will have the chance to weigh in at two meetings, the first of which is from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 8 at Evergreen Middle School, 7621 Beverly Lane. The other meeting will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 13 at the Jackson Conference Center at Everett Community College, 2000 Tower St.
Weighing the options
Creating a metropolitan park district would let the city levy a property tax of 75 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.
The move would generate a maximum value of $9 million per year, which would cover almost the entire parks department budget and free those funds out of the city’s general fund, which is the daily operating fund where the structural deficit is mounting.
A metropolitan parks district would result in the largest, most immediate revenue generator among the options discussed last week. Seattle and Snohomish are considering similar tax districts.
Having the Everett libraries be absorbed by the Sno-Isle library system would remove $5 million from the operating budget. It may also stabilize library funding and could even allow for longer library service hours.
The transition would introduce a 50 cent property tax per $1,000 of assessed value charged by Sno-Isle on all its customers. Everett currently does not have a separate tax for libraries.
Additionally, the Everett library workers have a union that may not carry over to the Sno-Isle system.
“They have worked very hard not to have a union in their system,” Everett libraries director Eileen Simmons said of Sno-Isle, “so I don’t think they will take that with them.”
People have been asking Simmons what could happen to the city’s bookmobile program, and she reluctantly does not have an answer for them.
Having Sno-Isle Libraries absorb Everett’s libraries requires Sno-Isle Libraries’ approval. It would also have to go to dual votes and get passed by both city residents and those residents part of the Sno-Isle Library System, which encompasses Snohomish and Island counties.
Creating a parks district was praised by council members.
“I think this is one of the most appealing because it’s one of the most progressive taxing measures, so it’s one that I would support,” Councilwoman Brenda Stonecipher said.
Councilman Rich Anderson said that any revenue generated through the parks district would be money the city has never had before.
“We would have actual dollars to show that there is progress in how we provide for our citizens,” he said.
Other ideas proposed
Cost-savings in emergency services may be considered as well.
The city could identify ways to have small portions of the Fire Department and the Police Department be handled jointly instead of within their own departments. Other cities have explored the same idea.
The council also looked at imposing fees for false alarm calls, because there were more than 700 false alarms last year that caused fire engines to be dispatched at the expense of the taxpayers.
Another idea is converting Walter E. Hall Golf Course into a smaller 18-hole “executive” golf course and sell portions of the golf course land. Selling land would help cover a $7.3 million debt within the golf fund created when the city renovated American Legion Park in the 1990s.
Other previously proposed ideas include closing the Forest Park Swim Center, which is due for renovation by 2020, and levying utility taxes for garbage and cable TV service.