City to tap reserve fund to cover $900,000 budget shortfall

Members of the Mountlake Terrace Police Department were on hand at Monday's council meeting to receive an award from
Members of the Mountlake Terrace Police Department were on hand at Monday’s council meeting to receive an award from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC) for earning its reaccreditation in 2015. “Our department’s success wouldn’t be possible without the buy-in, passion and desire of each and every member of the department,” Police Chief Greg Wilson told the council. Pictured from left are Commander Kevin Pickard, Commander Doug Hansen, Management Analyst Joie Worthen, Chief Greg Wilson, Deputy Chief Caw, WASPC Director of Professional Services Mike Painter and police officer Matt Porter.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council Monday night voted unanimously to dip into the city’s reserve fund to help cover a $900,000 shortfall created by lower-than-expected revenues.

The council voted 5-0 (Mayor Jerry Smith and Councilmember Seaun Richards were absent) to approve a plan presented by City Finance Director Nan Speer to amend its 2015-16 biennial budget to reduce general fund operating expenses by $250,000 and transfers out of the general fund by $301,000. Councilmembers also reluctantly agreed to appropriate $349,000 from the city’s reserve fund, reducing that fund from 5.1 percent to 2.5 percent of the city’s budget.

The major revenue sources coming up short in the $14,413,258 budget for 2015 include gambling tax revenues ($350,000 short of the $1.2 million projection), and development services fees ($267,000 short of the $850,450 projection– mostly because of the decline in building permit revenue, which is down $128,000).

“I do obviously have some concerns about the need to do this,” said Councilmember Bryan Wahl, adding that the council’s actions will also impact the city’s 2016 fund balance. Wahl said he hoped that the city would be able to replenish the reserve fund by the end of 2016; Speer replied that she would be returning to the council in January with a revised 2016 budget, “and we will set forth how we are going to bring that reserve back up at that time.”

Councilmember Kyoko Matsumoto Wright noted that it’s normal for organizations to have to make budget adjustments “as the revenues don’t come in and other unexpected things happen, so this is no different. But I am really concerned about taking money out of our reserves, because it’s so hard to get that paid back.”

“I don’t like to borrow from the rainy day fund — period,” she added.

The council also during its Monday night meeting:

— Approved items on its consent calendar (referred there from last week’s study session) that included 2016 fee adjustments for its recreation programs, with a slight increase in hourly rates for its preschool and Jr. Kids Krew programs; and updated fee schedules for building, fire, civil and land use development applications and permits, effective for 2016-19. The council approved the addition of a fire service fee and an hourly rate increase in the fee schedule from $139 to $141 to reflect last year’s Consumer Price Index. The council also gave the green light to a $53,700 professional services contract (same amount as last year) with the Johnston Group for federal lobbying services for 2016, part of the City Council’s strategy of securing federal funds for the Main Street Revitalization Project and Ballinger Park. And it approved a second amendment to an interlocal agreement with the cities of Edmonds and Lake Forest Park for the Lake Ballinger Watershed Forum for lobbying activities to secure federal funds for watershed improvements and protection.

— Approved 5-0 an update to the city’s Recreation, Parks and Open Space Master Plan, which covers the city’s existing recreation and parks system and identifies future needs. Mayor Pro Tem Laura Sonmore said that while she would vote for the plan, she did intend to come back with amendments next year. Councilmembers congratulated Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz and Parks and Property Management Superintendent Ken Courtmanch for their work in completing the 99-page plan, which was done in-house without the use of a consultant.

— Unanimously renewed the city’s monthly retainer contract with Gregory Schrag for City Attorney services. The contract includes an increase of 3.0 percent in 2016 followed by increases of 3.5 percent in 2017 and 2018. The contract includes a provision that if both parties agree, the contract can be extended for up to two more years (2019 and 2020) with the cost to be determined in 2018.


— Heard during the public comment period from members of Bethesda Lutheran Church, located in the 23400 block of 56th Avenue West, regarding proposed changes to the city’s non-conforming use standards. Church members had also appeared at last week’s work/study session to protest the standards, which they believe are aimed at pushing tax-exempt churches out of the downtown core in favor of revenue-generating commercial enterprises. The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed standards Dec. 21.

— By Teresa Wippel

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