At its Monday business meeting, the Mountlake Terrace City Council approved the city’s amended 2016-2018 biennial budget to reflect an increase in both revenues and expenses, and voted to include the addition of two new city positions — an accountant and a public records officer.
However, a proposal by Councilmember Seaun Richards to spread a cost of living increase more evenly among the city’s employees was defeated by a 4-3 vote.
City Manager Scott Hugill had recommended a 2 percent cost of living adjustment (COLA) for the city’s non-union employees, which 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.
Hugill said the lower COLA 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. It would also cover salary increases for employees now in the lowest hourly range to comply with new minimum wage requirements.
The plan allow also included raises for the city’s building official and the three lowest-paid department directors.
Richards proposed that the city instead take 50 percent of that proposed raised for those four city workers — which he estimated at $23,000 — and use it to help fund a 2.5 percent COLA for all of the city’s 70 non-represented employees. Such a move would help the city retain workers in a region with very low unemployment, he said.
“It’s hard enough to keep employees,” said Richards, who owns Red Onion Burgers in Mountlake Terrace. “I can definitely attest to that.”
Both Mayor Jerry Smith and Councilmember Laura Sonmore voted to support Richards’ motion to table the salary compensation ordinance so that Hugill could research the impact of such a move on the budget.
“Seventy (employees) is a lot of people,” Smith said. “That’s a lot of our staff.”
“This is something I’d like to happen for our employees,” Sonmore added.
However, the council majority — Councilmembers Bryan Wahl, Rick Ryan, Doug McCardle and Kyoko Matsumoto Wright — voted against the motion to table, stating they would prefer to take a wait-and-see approach on the city’s revenue in early 2018 before deciding whether to increase the COLA further.
Wahl said he would like to see more equality between union and non-union salaries in the future, adding he would also support a focus on merit-based wage increases rather than COLAs.
Later in the meeting, under new businesses, Sonmore directed Hugill to report back to the council in six months on the possibility of additional salary increases.
The salary ordinance as approved included the addition of a new accountant — at a cost of $91,720 in wages/benefits — that will assist with financial oversight of upcoming construction projects. Also approved as a ew public records officer ($91,720 wages/benefits), to handle the city’s growing number of records requests as well as address compliance with new state reporting requirements.
The city’s amended general fund budget includes an increase of $532,000 in revenue and $480,000 in expenditures — both tied to an upswing in city development activities. There is also a 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.
In addition, the budget includes $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.
In his city manager’s report, Hugill said that the “finishing touches” are being placed on a Request for Proposals so that an architect can be hired to work on a Civic Campus design. The council will see a contract for consideration by the end of February, Hugill said.
— By Teresa Wippel