In Dec. 7 work session, council talks about salary schedules, budget amendments

Lynnwood Finance Director Sonja Springer (bottom right) discusses the city’s proposed 2021 salary schedule.

From city salary schedules to budget amendments, the Lynnwood City Council at its Dec. 7 work session discussed several routine agenda items to be decided on next week.

At the Monday night meeting, the council started off by reviewing the city’s proposed salary schedule for 2021, which reflects cost of living adjustments to city staff salaries.

The adjustments are in accordance with labor agreements between the city and the Lynnwood Police Guild, the Police Management Guild and other labor representatives.

The proposal also includes a 0.9% cost of living adjustment for non-represented salaries, those employees not represented by labor unions. The proposed salary schedule includes all new positions approved with the adoption of the 2021-22 biennium budget last month.

During the discussion, Councilmember Jim Smith asked why the salary proposal includes the race and social justice coordinator after the council voted to delay hiring the position.

Prior to adopting the budget last month, the council voted to delay filling the position after some councilmembers said the job description was unclear and needed to be further discussed with the city’s diversity, equity and inclusion commission. Smith also asked why the schedule included a place for the intergovernmental relations positions if it was replaced with the new race and social justice coordinator.

Though the council voted to delay filling the position, Finance Director Sonja Springer said the salary schedule includes the rates for if and when the position is filled.

“(The position) is in there with the understanding that it might be delayed in hiring,” she said.

In response to Smith’s inquiry about the liaison position, Springer said the position is unfunded even though it still appears on the schedule. According to Springer, there are several unfunded positions left on the schedule for the council in the event the city finds funds to fill them.

However, Smith said he felt like staff was trying to “slip” the position into the council’s agenda for approval without further discussion.

“To me, it just checks off a box that we’re so ‘woke’ that we’re adding this position and I want to know what the problems are in Lynnwood,” he said.

The council also reviewed a proposed ordinance that would amend the city’s municipal codes to establish the new development and business services (DBS) department.

Development and business services consolidates the existing department functions of community development, economic development and public works-development engineering services.

Also during the meeting, the council reviewed a draft ordinance amending the city’s municipal code to use funds from the city’s Economic Development Infrastructure Fund (EDIF) to resolve a shortfall in the general fund as a result of COVID-19.

EDIF revenues come from building permit fees assessed construction projects exceeding $10 million. Funds also come from a portion of the construction sales taxes received from real estate development projects. Due to the pandemic, the council has directed that the EDIF fund be used to help resolve the revenue shortfall.

“This (ordinance) basically fills the direction of the council to maintain those two revenue sources in the general fund and not transfer to EDIF,” said Economic Development Director David Kleitsch.

The council also reviewed an ordinance that would raise some city fees by 6.3%, including fire, street and water and utility permits.

DBS is proposing increases to fees related to fire permits, street use permits, water utility permits, sewer utility permits, plumbing and mechanical permits, building, electrical and grading permits, subdivisions and zoning.

Kleitsch said the proposed fee adjustment is intended to be an interim change since DBS is planning to undertake a comprehensive fee study during 2021. He also said the fee changes are related to permits/services that require city employee labor. Some fees were last amended in 2018 and others in 2016.

Council President Christine Frizzell said she was concerned that the city has waited three years to update some fees. However, Frizzell acknowledged that there are pros and cons to updating fees each year compared with less-regular increases.

“I don’t know which is better, but I would certainly like to discover how often other cities make their fee adjustments,” she said.

Councilmember Ruth Ross said she didn’t agree fees needed to be updated annually. Ross said updating fees only when necessary sends a better message to the community.

“I think that the years we don’t raise (fees) allows the public to understand that maybe we didn’t need to and maybe when we do raise them it’s because we need to,” she said. “I would like to think that we don’t necessarily have to raise them every year.”

— By Cody Sexton

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.