The following letter to members of the Ferndale City Council is provided courtesy of Ferndale City Administrator Jori Burnett. It is regarding the Ferndale City Council meeting agenda for the regular meeting scheduled for 6pm, Monday, December 2nd.
Your agenda for Monday night is as follows:
Item A: Public Comment
Item B: Consent Agenda, including approval of November 18, 2019 Council Meeting Minutes, Authorization of November 20, 2019 payroll, budget amendment, public defender contract renewal, an ordinance amending the Community Center Advisory Board (CCAB) membership, and appointments to various boards and commissions.
Budget Amendment: The budget amendment follows the approval of the closure of two funds on November 18, 2019 (Star Park construction fund and Main-LaBounty/ Walgreens roundabout fund). With the closure of those funds and the approval of the budget amendment ordinance, the remaining fund balance would be transferred into the Current Expense and Traffic Mitigation funds.
Public Defender Contract Renewal: The Finance and Administration Committee placed a three-year contract renewal for Thomas Lyden, City of Ferndale Public Defender, on the consent agenda. The renewal would increase the overall compensation to Mr. Lyden, who expects to utilize a portion of the compensation to fund expanded hours for an assistant. These modifications will allow the Public Defender to continue to process a higher caseload for the foreseeable future.
Community Center Advisory Board (CCAB) Membership: The CCAB was originally created as a mechanism to guide the transition of the Pioneer Pavilion from a library space to a community meeting center. The board has not met for a number of years following this transition, and it has been determined that the board should recommence regular meetings. The ordinance that has been placed on the consent agenda would revise Ferndale Municipal Code 2.33 to modify the membership of the organization, recognizing that the Old Settler’s Association and Heritage Society are two separate organizations, and that the Ferndale Chamber of Commerce, as the manager of the facility should be included as an automatic member (as are City staff), not subject to appointment by the Ferndale City Council.
Appointments to Various Boards and Commissions: The Mayor is authorized to nominate, and the Council has the responsibility to approve or deny, new members to the City’s various boards and commissions. Mayor Mutchler has nominated Ken Kramer, the owner of a local consulting/construction business, to the Planning Commission. Mayor Mutchler has nominated Linda Harkelroad of the Ferndale Heritage Society to the Community Center Advisory Board. Ms. Harkelroad had previously served on this board, but her term had expired. Similarly, Lynda Lucas has been nominated to be the representative of the Old Settler’s Association on the CCAB. Ms. Lucas is currently serving as the Old Settler’s Association president; the previous president also served on the CCAB. Finally, Mayor Mutchler has nominated Shiyeda Silverwolf to serve on the North Whatcom Poverty Taskforce.
Item C: Citizen of the Year Awards. Mayor Mutchler will present the 2019 Citizen of the Year Awards
Item D: Presentation on Workforce Housing. Don Goldberg, the Port of Bellingham’s Director of Economic Development, will present to the City Council on a range of economic issues facing the region, including the need for increased workforce housing.
Item E: Public Hearing, 2020 Budget Adoption Ordinance. The City Council is asked to adopt the 2020 budget on December 2nd. As required by law, the budget is balanced and reflects a projected $75,613,607 in revenues, vs. a projected $73,989,423 in expenditures. The two largest line items are the Thornton construction fund, and the sewer fund (for the construction of the wastewater treatment plant). Together these two funds represent more than half of the overall budget. As noted at the Finance and Administration Committee, specific modifications to staff salaries that are expected to result from the ratification of the various union contracts have not yet been added, pending Council review. A budget amendment will be required in order to reflect the ratified contracts.
Item F: Utility Rates (Public Hearing). A public hearing has been scheduled to hear feedback from the public concerning the conclusions of the FCS Group’s Utility Rate Study. FCS concluded that utility rates would generally need to be increased in order to meet revenue requirements necessary to pay for the utility system (water, sewer, stormwater) for the next decade and beyond. The rate increases to be voted on December 16th (following a public hearing on December 2nd) are only for the next three years, at which point a re-evaluation of rates and assumptions will be scheduled.
Item G: Fountain Place Catalyst Project. The extensive staff report included as Item F describes the overall project and process in great detail. The Fountain Place project is the first of up to three “catalyst” projects that will be reviewed by Council in December 2019. Fountain Place is the largest of the three, and is proposed to add 119 multifamily units and over 16,000 square feet of commercial space to properties including and surrounding the Lyndale Glass site. The project would also expand area around the Riverwalk fountain, include public art, construct and maintain new public restrooms, and more. If approved as a catalyst project by the City Council, the City would waive impact, connection, and staff review fees.
As the City has grown to rely increasingly on technology to offset staff reductions, decrease the hiring of new staff, and streamline operations, the cost to maintain and keep current with technology has increased. The 2020 budget is anticipated to reflect this greater understanding of computer and software needs, and ongoing improvements to asset management are anticipated to further reduce the need for future budget amendments in this category.
Items H-L: Mayor, Council, Department Reports, Committee Minutes.
The City’s budget acts not only as a close accounting of the public’s money, but as a goal-setting document for the next year and beyond. This is where and how Ferndale’s money will be spent over the next twelve months. It, like any other planning document, will change as 2020 progresses: some things may cost more, others (unfortunately, not many) will cost less. Some projects may be delayed, others advanced.
We have talked extensively about the constraints that have been placed on our budget, and how this has in some cases prevented long-term fiscal planning. But it is also important to appreciate that, in the words of former mayor and councilmember Jensen, the funds are “not my money.” Instead, they are entrusted to us by our friends and neighbors to be spent wisely, for the benefit of the greater good. Thus, the budget itself acts as a significant constraint on spending, and constant vigilance to defend and, if necessary and appropriate, to amend the budget is necessary.
And while the City Council ultimately controls the purse strings for the City (primarily through the adoption of the budget and subsequent ratification of various contracts and approvals), it is the Finance Department that is tasked with the day-to-day maintenance of this important document. Much credit must go to Finance Director Sirke Salminen and her team for notable advances in the 2020 budget process. Director Salminen held finance and budget-related work sessions throughout the year to explain and review the budget process, individual funds within the budget, and more. The Council sought to identify those areas in which particular emphasis should be given, and Staff sought to reflect that guidance in what will be voted on Monday night. While the intensity of the review increased over the last several months, it has been very much a year-long process.
So in conclusion, if we do look at the budget document as a goal-setting document, we will confirm what we already know: 2020 is when we start building our future.
Happy Thanksgiving! See you Monday – Jori
The public is encouraged to attend City Council meetings. They are held on the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month (on the following Tuesday in event of a national holiday) at 6pm in Council Chambers at the City Hall Annex at 5694 2nd Avenue.