City manager pitches budget at Parks and Rec meeting

  • Written by Don Mann
Maybe it’s a sign of the times — perhaps it’s because parks and recreation have been deemed irrelevant by the local powers that be — but in any case there appears to be little pertinent business for Woodinville’s Parks and Recreation Commission these days.

At its December 2 meeting — its first gathering since October 7 — 47 of the 63 minutes spent by the voluntary conclave were spent listening to Woodinville City Manager Richard Leahy’s overview of the city’s proposed 2011-12 preliminary budget, one which was pitched to city council on November 2 and will face second reading and adoption on Tuesday.

And parks and rec had little skin in the game, which Leahy later underscored by reporting that Woodinville parks would receive less than 3 percent — approximately $300,000 — of the biennial budget pie over the next two years.

Anyone paying attention already knows that the doors of the Carol Edwards Center — including the city’s recreation programs — are scheduled for closure on December 31, barring an 11th-hour proposal acceptance by council from either the Northshore YMCA or the Boys and Girls Club of Snohomish County.

Council will vote on the issue at its December 14 meeting — only two weeks before the community center’s doors would be locked for good.

Nevertheless, the city manager began his presentation on the present status of Woodinville’s economy — and it wasn’t terribly optimistic.

Leahy anticipates continued economic decline throughout 2011 — the fourth consecutive year the city will realize less revenue than the previous year, though he thought there would be a "slight improvement" in 2012.

Despite the new downtown zoning code, no major development projects will occur over the next 24-month budget period, he said.

He cited "some signs of improvement" in the retail sector, though the good times are over, he lamented.

"Our revenue base changed forever because of streamlined sales tax (SST)," he said. "We used to get a lot of sales tax from the industrial businesses in town, like Woodinville Lumber. They would sell their product and deliver it to an out-of-town site and we’d get the sales tax from it. Now the sales tax goes to where the product is delivered."

He spoke about "budget preparation parameters," which were delivered to him from council — his employer — and included eight commands:

1. No new taxes or tax increases.

2. No use of reserves to fund ongoing operations.

3. No shifting of existing capital project revenues to general operations.

4. Focus on services legally required to provide, focusing on public safety.

5. Close the Carol Edwards Center and eliminate recreation programs.

6. Reduce crime rates.

7. Reduce city staffing levels where activity levels no longer support staffing levels.

8. Reduce specialized employee positions in favor of more versatile generalist positions — all the while minimizing impacts of these reductions on the public.

Leahy spoke about the "big picture," of which he mentioned a tenuous $1 million gap between operating revenue in the next budget versus costs.

"Overall revenues are down almost $10 million or 27 percent from 2009-10, and that’s a big hit." He cited a decline in construction development as the main culprit.

City staffing has been reduced from 49 full time employees (FTE’s) in 2010 to 37 in 2011 — with 12 FTEs (24 percent) getting laid off as of December 31. He cited Woodinville’s "high water mark" of 67 FTEs in 2006, which constitutes a reduction of 45 percent in the last five years.

Leahy proudly talked about crime rates, which are at an all-time low of 40 "Part 1" (the most serious) per 1,000 residents.

And he talked about the capital project budget of approximately $12.1 over the next two-year period, way down from the previous two-year period where many back-logged projects were delivered.

"We completed a lot of capital projects and spent a lot of money, starting with the roundabouts," he said.

Of the $12.1 million appropriated, approximately $10 million — or 90 percent — are dedicated to street improvements. Approximately 5 percent of the remainder will go to surface water, 3 percent to city facilities and a little more than 2 percent to parks.

Of the $10 million dedicated to streets, approximately $7.2 million will go to the Sammamish Bridge widening project, and $600,000 will go to the design of Woodinville-Duvall Road widening.

"The council made a decision," he said. "We don’t have enough money to (re)build the bridge and widen the road at the same time. We have $3 million in grants for the bridge and the council said ‘don’t lose the grant money for the bridge, get the W-D ready to build if we can’ — and we’re looking for grant money for the W-D right now. It probably won’t go to construction till 2013-14."

Before the city manager took the floor, the commission honored outgoing member Linda Sarpy, an original parks and recreation commissioner who dedicated 14 years of personal time without pay to serve the community.

Sarpy was presented with a holiday poinsettia and, later on, the commissioners shared a cake in her honor.

Councilmember Liz Aspen, a personal friend and a longtime colleague, made a point to appear at the meeting and spoke eloquently, passionately, while fighting off tears.

Among her words were the following: "Linda Sarpy was always fair, collaborative and definitely not afraid to let people know what she thought. Woodinville thanks you for your service." 


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