Council OKs rent reduction for MLT Senior Center, hears update on city finances

The Mountlake Terrace City Council voted unanimously Monday night to approve rent reduction and forgiveness for the Mountlake Terrace Senior Community Center, which rents the city-owned Mickey Corso Community Clubhouse at Ballinger Park. Last month the center had asked for a reduction in the lease to $500 each month and forgiveness for amounts owed from March through August of this year since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled nearly all of its supplemental rental activities and leaving it unable to pay the rent.

Under terms of the previously existing lease agreement, the senior center pays $1,500 monthly and has the ability to rent the Lakeview Room out to private parties in order to generate income for senior services. The approved rent reduction will begin in September and be reassessed in the spring of 2021.

The council also approved an update to its Recreation Parks and Open Space (RPOS) master plan that will include the use of consultants for expanding community outreach during the planning phase of redevelopment and pedestrian path improvements at Veterans Memorial Park. The $130,000 contract will be with Conservation Technix for the preparation and outreach work.

Recreation and Parks Director Jeff Betz told councilmembers during their July 16 work/study session that outreach efforts will include a survey, focus groups, an online open house and community meetings as allowed by pandemic conditions, with plans for online communications or possibly in small groups at outdoor locations.

The RPOS plan lays out a 20-year vision for goals and policies, it is required to be updated every six years and must be completed by the end of 2021. The last update, in 2015, was done by city staff and the Recreation and Parks Advisory Commission.

In other business, the council authorized a $515,000 contract with Perteet, Inc. for design work to address pavement reconstruction along 66th Avenue West between 220th Street Southwest and the Interurban Trail. The project will also make stormwater improvements to Taylor Pond. The road is scheduled for reconstruction and the city received a $2.3-million grant for project design and modifications from the Transportation Improvement Board.

City Manager Scott Hugill also updated councilmembers on the disbursement of financial relief — approved by the council — as part of the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act.

Under one CARES-funded project, city staff have finalized materials to be included with the bulk mailing of two masks to each address in Mountlake Terrace, which includes roughly 9,700 residences and businesses. Hugill said that he expects they will be sent out next week.

Hugill told the council that six businesses had applied the city’s grants — which can be up to $5,000 — to help with operating costs during the pandemic. He said that he would like city staff to review the requests in the next week. Money awarded can be used for expenses including rent, payroll, bills, or costs associated with safely reopening locations. The application deadline was July 13.

The city could possibly authorize a second round of local business grants in the near future. Councilmembers expressed a desire to step up outreach efforts, if there is another round of grants, to ensure that more businesses are aware of the funds.

Additionally, the city is looking to contract with nonprofit organizations to help those who are unable to pay essential bills and help deliver food to people who are either homebound or at higher risk to travel. Hugill said that a request for proposals to provide such services will be sent out this week.

Finally, the council heard about the financial implications of the coronavirus outbreak. Hugill noted revenues from sales tax and development services fees were up during the first financial quarter of the year, which he called “something of a surprise,” and attributed the increases to online sales and construction projects.

It was a different story in the second quarter, when the city saw a decrease of more than $500,000 in projected income. Revenue from city gambling and admissions taxes, along with recreation revenues, were down significantly because these were affected by the closures of casinos, the movie theater and the city’s Recreation Pavilion and pool.

The city’s recreation fund fell short of its 83% cost recovery goal, finishing the first quarter at 62% with a subsidy of over $141,000 from the city’s general fund. The city’s recreation programs do not recover their full cost from user fees; instead, programs receive additional funding from a property tax levy measure approved by voters in 2016.

Hugill told the council the city’s income discrepancy was also partly due to Snohomish County extending the deadline for payment of property taxes until July. However, even if the delayed property tax revenue were removed, the city would still be about $250,000 short in other areas.

The bottom line: The city has approximately $211,000 less in its general fund at the end of June 2020 compared to the same time period in 2019. Hugill felt this was somewhat predictable because of closures during the pandemic. “Rarely do I consider negative numbers good news, but this is far better than I feared,” he said.

To cut expenses, the city has eliminated two positions and incentivized retirements to free up another, laid off 108 part-time workers at the Recreation Pavilion, and furloughed 16 regular benefit positions in May. Hugill said the positions eliminated will save approximately $300,000 in salary and benefits over a full year.

Meanwhile, the city said in a Tuesday news release that it is in “control budget” mode, meaning that even if expenditures are in the budget, they should not be spent unless they are necessary and approved by department directors or the city manager.

— By Nathan Blackwell







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