The Lynnwood City Council at its Monday, Nov. 14 business meeting failed to override Lynnwood Mayor Christine Frizzell’s veto of Ordinance 3614. which repealed the city’s $40 car tab fees.
This is not the first time the tab fees have been repealed by a Lynnwood council or the decision has been vetoed by its mayor. Councilmembers previously voted to repeal the tab fees in 2021, but that was vetoed by former Mayor Nicola Smith and the council failed to override it. Since then, the idea of again repealing the car tab fees has been brought before the council twice, but has been tabled both times as Hurst wanted to hold the discussion during the budget presentations.
The council approved Ordinance 3416 to repeal the fees at its Oct. 24 meeting and Frizzell – who replaced Smith as mayor in January 2022 – vetoed it on Oct. 31.
Monday night, Hurst moved to postpone the override vote until Nov. 28, as Councilmember Shirley Sutton was absent. Hurst said he felt all councilmembers should be in attendance for the discussion.
However, Councilmembers Shannon Sessions and Julieta Altamirano-Crosby said they wanted to finish the discussion Monday night.
“I’m willing to still vote on this tonight,” Sessions said. “I don’t know the last time we had all councilmembers here, which is pretty disappointing. If we’re going to wait on that, that’ll be a while. So I’m happy to just vote tonight.”
Hurst’s motion to postpone the discussion was denied, with Councilmembers Sessions, Altamirano-Crosby and Josh Binda voting no. Councilmembers Patrick Decker and Jim Smith joined Hurst in voting yes. Since the vote was a tie, Mayor Frizzell also voted no, overturning the motion.
Councilmember Sessions then made a motion to override the mayor’s veto although she said she planned to vote no.
“I think it’s irresponsible for this council, particularly as we’re growing, building a major downtown corridor, having Sound Transit come, wanting all the things that this council is asking for,” Sessions said. “Public safety, streets and sewer are all things that are the responsibility of the council. All those other things are as well, but it’s the council’s job to focus on those three things and by taking this money away, it’s drastically hurting that. It’s a small price to pay for the amount of benefit that it gives this community.”
A supermajority of five or more yes votes from the council is needed to override a mayor’s veto.
Councilmembers Sessions, Altamirano-Crosby and Binda voted no, which was enough to deny the override. As such, the mayor’s veto remains in effect.
In other business, the council held two public hearings: one for the 2023 property tax levy and the other for the city’s 2023-24 budget.
At its Oct. 5 meeting, Lynnwood Finance Director Michelle Meyer told councilmembers that the levy is proposed to increase by 1% – the maximum annual increase allowed by state law – rising from $4.5 million to $5 million. And while the levy rate per every $1,000 of assessed value is expected to decrease from 53 cents to 48 cents in the new year, Lynnwood homeowners should still expect to see their property tax bills increase slightly in 2023.
Council President George Hurst voiced his concern with how the increase in the levy rates are being worded for the public.
“I don’t care if the rates are going down,” Hurst said. “This biennium is actually increasing property tax by 20% in the City of Lynnwood and I think we need to be upfront about that fact. We need to be transparent with our residents.”
Hurst also had issues with a graph shown in Meyer’s presentation, saying the information given to residents is misleading. According to the chart, Lynnwood has one of the lowest property tax levy rates in the county. However, that graph does not account for the fire district fee. When that is added, the city moves much closer to the top of the list.
The council president told Meyer he doesn’t like how the presentation seemed to be hiding that fact from residents and requested she create a new chart with that information added in.
Former councilmember Ted Hikel spoke during the public hearing, also voicing his concern at how the presentation appeared misleading to residents.
He urged the council to ask themselves if raising levy rates would really benefit the City of Lynnwood or merely put further financial stress on its residents.
“[Our taxes are] going to be higher.” Hikel said. “We know that. We’re not dumb. We’re not conned. So get real, council. Look at your budget, look at the amount you have to bring in and then decide if that’s a fair amount. Please consider the citizens when you look at that budget and you make the decision on property taxes.”
During the public hearing for the city’s 2023-24 budget, Lynnwood resident Nick Coelho asked the council not to cut the city’s parks department budget to fund other departments – a tactic he has noticed many other cities doing when faced with tightened finances.
Coelho said the benefits of Lynnwood’s parks were obvious when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most businesses, and most parks saw around 100% increases in activity since the fall of 2019.
“Unlike other towns, the City of Lynnwood knows that its residents and their families need, love and deserve a well-maintained park system,” he said. “I would ask that you please keep that fact in the back of your mind when you deliberate this and future budgets.”
Hikel also spoke during the budget’s public hearing, asking councilmembers what parts of the 2021 budget found to be non-beneficial were being cut from the current budget. Or, Hikel asked, were more expenses being added onto the existing budget without an in-depth look into what portions could be eliminated due to inefficiency or non-use?
After the public hearings closed, councilmembers had a chance to discuss the budget among themselves.
Councilmember Hurst again voiced his disapproval of how some of the budget was laid out, saying it was not user-friendly and took him too long to figure out.
“We need to have a little more detail,” he said. “If we’re being asked to pass a budget, at least give us the tools.”
The council is set to hold further discussion and vote on the city’s 2023-24 budget and the 2023 tax levy at its Nov. 28 meeting.
In addition, the council approved three of the six remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) proposals under consideration. Councilmembers unanimously approved up to $300,000 for a human services coordinator position and $60,000 for after-school tutoring for Lynnwood students. $43,000 was also approved for the Lynnwood Chamber of Commerce’s Shop Lynnwood campaign, with Councilmember Jim Smith voting no.
— By Lauren Reichenbach