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TUESDAY: Edmonds to consider, act on crisis management policy

Snohomish County already eyeing hiring freeze and other steps

Series: Coronavirus | Story 102

Last updated 4/10/2020 at 6:31pm

City of Edmonds


Editor's note: This story will be updated for the next week's April 16 Edmonds Beacon.

The coronavirus pandemic's toll on the City of Edmonds' finances remains unclear, but a "Proposed Crisis Financial Management Policy" is part of the City Council's agenda Tuesday, April 14.

"The administration is working hard to learn about the potential impacts and learn about financial relief that may be available to the City, to our local businesses, and citizens," said Edmonds Finance Director Scott James on Friday, April 10.

"Staff will be talking to City Council over the course of the next few weeks in regards to COVID-19's effects on the City's finances."

The crisis policy is established to ensure that the City can sustain ongoing operations, according to the agenda. It will "trigger measures to ensure that financial challenges to the general fund are dealt with in a timely, prudent and cost-effective manner."

The policy sets forth guidelines for City Council, Mayor Mike Nelson and staff to use to identify and close spending gaps.

You can read the entire proposed policy on the City's website at http://edmondswa.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=2579&Inline=True (page 82).

Financial impacts are no doubt already being felt, especially with Edmonds' sales tax base. Many "non-essential" businesses are closed from the Bowl, the Highway 99, and to points north and south in city limits.

Sales taxes to the city's general fund are certainly taking a big hit.

Essential City functions, such as work on the Dayton Street pump and Dayton Street construction are continuing, said Public Works Director Phil Williams.

On Friday, paving continued on 84th Avenue West from 220th to 212th streets southwest.

As far as Edmonds personnel goes, one City employee told the Beacon that some staff have reduced hours but are still getting full pay. The Beacon has a call out to Human Resources Director Jessica Neill Hoyson for confirmation.

The continuing economic impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic are expected to force significant cuts to the county budget.

On Friday, April 10, Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Snohomish County Council Chair Nate Nehring announced a series of budget steps they are considering in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including a hiring freeze, eliminating any discretionary raises, canceling travel and training, and other fiscal management tools. Early budget estimates predict that the county's general fund budget may need to be cut by 10% or more due to the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As far as the county goes, Somers said that "these are unique times, and they call for preemptive action on the part of Snohomish County. With so many people thrust out of work and many industries shutting down, we cannot have business-as-usual in the county. There are a number of steps we will need to make, including a hiring freeze, to save taxpayers' money and adjust to a tough economic climate for our residents."

"The COVID-19 pandemic is causing serious economic hardship for our community," said Nehring. "As a result, we will need to tighten our belts and take extraordinary care of taxpayer dollars. These actions will allow us to maintain our emergency response capabilities during this difficult time."

The preliminary budget analysis, conducted by the Snohomish County Finance Department, shows that the economic impact to the county's general fund budget could exceed $24 million in 2020, just under 10% of the budget.

Since over 75% of the fund's budget is directed toward law and justice agencies, any cuts will have impacts across the board. If $24 million were cut from the budget, it would represent approximately 220 county employees.

"We know there will be some very tough budget decisions to make because of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Somers. "We have significant mandated responsibilities that must be fulfilled. We want there to be no illusions about what may be coming, if the worst economic forecasts become reality. We will cut our budget and adapt our operations with our eyes wide open."


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