City Council hearing Monday on budget amendments; decision delayed on Woodway police contract

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The Mountlake Terrace City Council at its Monday night, Dec. 4 meeting will hold a public hearing on an ordinance that modifies the city’s 2017-2018 budget to reflect an increase in both revenues and expenses, including the addition of two new city positions — an accountant and a public records officer.

The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers, interim City Hall, 6100 219th St. S.W., 2nd floor.

The council will also consider a proposed salary ordinance that includes a cost of living adjustment for its employees in 2018, plus raises for some of the city’s directors.

City Finance Director Crystal Wooldridge provided background on the proposed changes during the council’s work/study session Nov. 30. She noted that while the council passed its biennial budget in December 2016, a mid-biennium review allows the council to amend that budget for items that couldn’t have been anticipated when the two-year budget was approved.

The city’s proposed general fund budget amendment include an increase of $532,000 in revenue and $480,000 in expenditures — both tied to an upswing in city development activities.

Sales tax revenue, building permits and development services fees are all coming in higher than anticipated in 2017, Wooldridge told the council. “We have also seen an increase in our public records requests, so we have additional costs associated with that,” she said. Other expenses not included in the original biennial budget were $160,000 in professional services costs connected to the development of a proposal for a new Civic Center Campus, which generated a bond measure approved by voters in November.

There is a proposed decrease in the city’s street construction fund of $7.3 million in revenues and $7.1 million in expenses, primarily due to the rescheduled start of the Main Street project. Those funds will be carried over to 2018, Wooldridge said.

The budget includes an additional $400,000 in expenses in 2018 for design of the Civic Campus project, which will be funded by the additional 1 percent property tax increase authorized by the city council earlier in November.

City Manager Scott Hugill

As for the proposed salary increases, City Manager Scott Hugill is recommending a 2 percent cost of living increase for the city’s non-union employees. Hugill acknowledged that this is lower than the wage increases that will be awarded via contract negotiations to the city’s union employees. The Teamsters Local 763 finance, public works and park/facilities employees are receiving a 2.25 percent increase and police support employees will get a 2.5 increase, while Police Guild-represented police officers and sergeants will see a 2.75 percent raise.

The lower cost of living adjustment for non-union workers would help offset the expenses involved in hiring two new positions — a public records officer and a staff accountant — plus meeting new state requirements for minimum wage increases and increasing the salaries of the city’s building official and the three lowest-paid department directors.

Those proposed increases were supported by the salary survey the city conducted, which compared City of Mountlake Terrace salaries to those of comparable-sized cities in the region, including Arlington, Monroe and Lake Forest Park, Hugill said.

In addition, the city is recommending salary increases for employees now in the lowest hourly range to comply with new minimum wage requirements.

As for the two additional positions proposed, the new accountant — at a cost of $91,720 in wages/benefits — would assist with financial oversight of upcoming construction projects. The public records officer ($91,720 wages/benefits), meanwhile, would handle the city’s growing number of records requests as well as address compliance with new state reporting requirements.

Following Hugill’s report, councilmembers had a long discussion about whether all employees — union and non-union — should receive the same cost of living adjustment. Councilmember Laura Sonmore also suggested that some of the city’s lowest paid workers — such as lifeguards and child care workers — should receive more money because of their important responsibilities.

“They earn their pay and these are people who are helping to raise our children,” Sonmore said.

All councilmembers agreed that it would be good to pay the city’s employees more, but some also expressed concerns about balancing the budget.

Hugill agreed to “run the numbers” and take a another look at what it would take to bump salaries higher, and present that information during the Dec. 4 meeting.

Also at Thursday’s work/study session, the council discussed a proposal — presented by Hugill — that the city enter into an agreement with the Town of Woodway to provide backup police response when the town doesn’t have an officer on duty. Earlier this year the City of Edmonds, which has been providing that service, “informed Woodway that they wanted to increase that contract price by quite a bit,” Hugill said. In early November, Woodway contacted Mountlake Terrace asking if the city had interest in providing the services instead, he added.

Woodway would pay Mountlake Terrace $50,000 annually to provide police backup. Woodway estimates this would involve seven or fewer calls per month, mostly involving burglary alarms going off that need to be investigated. The proposal would be for a one-year pilot project “to see how it goes,” Hugill said.

The city manager added that in the past week, the Mountlake Terrace Police Guild has indicated it wants to bargain with the city over the Woodway contract. As a result, it probably isn’t in the city’s best interest to proceed until city officials have a chance to meet with the guild to discuss it.

“I have a lot of concerns with this,” Councilmember Doug McCardle said, adding he wondered if $50,000 a year was worth “pulling our officers off Mountlake Terrace streets. I don’t think so.”

He said he also wondered about the possible effects such a move would have on the city’s relationship with Edmonds. “Their contract’s up and they’re trying to negotiate and we come in and take their money,” McCardle said.

Hugill replied that he had asked Woodway’s town administrator to communicate with Edmonds that Woodway was considering a contract with Mountlake Terrace. However, Edmonds Police Chief Al Compaan said Friday that he was not aware of that possibility until he saw an email from MLTnews regarding Thursday night’s council discussion. “That was the first I heard of it,” Compaan said.

Since Edmonds and Woodway are actively negotiating their current two-year contract, which expires Dec. 31, Compaan said he can’t share the costs being discussed. But he did say that the Edmonds City Council will be considering at its Tuesday night business meeting a one-month contract extension to give the parties more time to negotiate.

“Revenue-wise, it’s probably good for our city,” said Mountlake Terrace Councilmember Kyoko Matsumoto Wright. “But there’s pros and there’s cons and the main thing again is, our citizens — they come first.”

“It’s about safety first,” added Councilmember Sonmore. “If we have one officer in Mountlake Terrace and that officer is pulled away to Woodway, that’s not fair to our citizens.”

City Councilmember Seaun Richards asked if the contract would pose a conflict of interest for Mountlake Terrace Police Commander Doug Hansen, who also serves under a separate contract as Woodway’s Police Chief. Hugill replied that to address that issue, the draft agreement calls for the administrators, rather than the police chiefs, in Mountlake Terrace and Woodway to be in charge of the agreement. “That way, Commander Hansen is not having to bargain with his boss or negotiate with his boss (Police Chief Greg Wilson) over his role in Woodway,” Hugill said.

If the agreement is approved, the $50,000 could be used to assist in funding an additional police officer — possibly a school resource officer for Mountlake Terrace High School, Hugill said.

Mayor Jerry Smith

Mayor Jerry Smith said believes that Mountlake Terrace should approve the contract with Woodway, to ensure the two governments continue to support each other on future public safety issues. “I’m not worrying about insulting Edmonds,” Smith said.

Smith suggested that the city table the proposal until they have an opportunity to learn more about the Police Guild’s concerns regarding the contract.

In other business, the council:

— Heard a presentation regarding townhome construction in the city’s Town Center, and how current city code may be inhibiting future development. Currently, townhomes and commercial parking lots can be built in the “transitional use” areas near the Town Center, but the height limit in the transition area is two stories—a story less than residential areas further away from downtown. The City’s Planning Commission has begun discussing code options — such as allowing the transitional area and the RS 4800 Zone to have the same maximum three-story height as other parts of the city.

The city has scheduled a public forum to present more information on the issue Thursday, Dec. 14, 6-7 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers, 6100 219th St. SW., second floor.

— Heard from Jerry Smith, speaking as a private citizen during the public comment period, about an open community meeting he is sponsoring is Saturday, Dec. 9 from 1-5 p.m. at the Nile Country Club, 6601 244th St. S.W. The goal is to have citizens, developers and builders come together and talk about proposals for possible projects and share their visions for the city, he said.

“It’s not a city function,” Smith said, although councilmembers will be invited to attend.

— By Teresa Wippel

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