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What is the hubbub over CIP/CFP? | Guest View

 

December 5, 2019



Edmonds has two documents used for budgetary planning as it prioritizes projects, outlines expected costs and funding sources, and fulfills long-range planning objectives.

One is the Capital Improvement Program, or CIP.

The other is the Capital Facilities Plan, or CFP.

The CFP is amended annually and is divided into major funds found in the CIP. The CIP is tied specifically to the following budgetary funds:

– Transportation;

– Park Capital projects from REET (Real Estate Excise Tax fund), a tax on the sale of property, usually paid by the seller;

– Special Capital/Park Acquisition from REET funds;

– Park Construction;

– Water Utility;

– Stormwater Utility; and

– Sewer and Wastewater Utility.

Government accounting requires certain revenues or grants being directed into designated funds that are then applied for specific expenses.

In other words, city revenues do not fill one barrel of money.

In 2019, the City's administration established a $16.6 million estimated cost for Edmonds Marsh restoration and placed it in the Stormwater Utility fund and removed the 2018 Park Construction cost of $8 million for the marsh. Or, in essence, sweeping the funds from Park Construction to the Stormwater fund.

With the CIP – which is tied to the City's budget – now having marsh restoration in the Stormwater Utility fund – it creates budgetary confusion because the Dayton Street Pump Station was previously funded through Stormwater Utility, the general fund, and a state grant.

The Dayton Street Pump Station is being built primarily to eliminate flooding at Dayton Street and Highway 104. It will allow the marsh tide gate to be left open year-round, thus supporting marsh restoration.

But do citizens consider marsh restoration to be entirely a Stormwater Utility Project? Or rather, does it sound like a shell game allowing taxpayers to be potentially burdened with hefty stormwater/utility tax increases?

A complex project

The marsh restoration project is complex and entails many elements:

– Marina Beach design/engineering that includes a tidal channel through Marina Beach to the railroad track culverts per the approved Master Plan (funded through the Parks Construction fund);

– Addressing property rights, currently held in a WSDOT (Washington State Department of Transportation) trust pending completion of the Unocal cleanup;

– Marsh restoration itself, which requires engineering and dredging, allowing improved connection to Puget Sound with enhanced tidal exchange; and

– Stormwater management enhancements, where culverts will be cleaned and/or pipes removed/replaced.

Design, engineering and construction will be managed by Public Works, with input from Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.

Correct classifications matter because Marina Beach and marsh restoration elements are part of the City's public recreation and open space comprehensive plan element.

Further, grant funding for salmon recovery, park restoration, and Puget Sound water quality are available in fulfilling objectives outlined in Gov. Jay Inslee's $383 capital budget for salmon recovery and Puget Sound restoration.

Salmon recovery grant funding agencies often consider these classifications during their decision-making processes. For this reason, I objected to removing marsh restoration from the Parks Fund and introduced amendments to create placeholders in all Park funds.

Costs for the marsh placeholders were designated "to be determined" because the City should first finish Civic Field allocations using Park Capital Projects REET money (and general fund, donations, and bonding). The TBD costs in the Park funds will allow incoming Mayor Mike Nelson and councilmembers to plan appropriate allocations in all funds for restoring this unique urban estuary.

Importantly, the City must wait for property ownership transfer from Unocal to WSDOT. A WSDOT public records request identified "compensation" as an issue.

Yet records show WSDOT has no clear vision for that property, since voters did not approve a 2007 transportation package that included a planned transit hub called Edmonds Crossing near the marsh (for which the property was originally purchased).

The property is zoned commercial, which may provide rationale for WSDOT to sell the property to a developer. Thus, I added a placeholder to the Special Capital/Park Acquisition that would allow the City to purchase the property (or portion) to facilitate marsh restoration.

Having said that, there maybe other ways to compensate WSDOT for the property (e.g., a mitigation banking).

Thus, I added a placeholder to Special Capital/Park Acquisition as the property is zoned commercial. I also reinstated a Parks Construction placeholder for marsh restoration as I don't believe utility ratepayers should potentially be burdened with the entire costs.

Next year, councilmembers should review the CIP/CFP earlier in the year to allow for proper planning and budgeting so that City of Edmonds administration has a roadmap of council priorities and associated costs.

Diane Buckshnis is a member of the Edmonds City Council.

 

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