When it comes to the long-term financial impact of the COVID-19 crisis on services, programs and staff, the City of Edmonds finds itself in a similar position of uncertainty as many cities in the Washington State and United States.
Chief Financial Officer Scott James told Edmonds City Council on Tuesday night that due to the city’s sound financial management policies, Edmonds was in a strong financial position to deal with the expected loss of revenue from COVID -19 and continue to provide essential services to residents during the public health crisis.
At Tuesday’s meeting, James presented a draft financial crisis financial policy aimed at tracking what is happening and what will happen as the crisis unfolds. This policy creates a consistent and uniform approach to providing actionable information, he noted.
On Wednesday, the city shared additional information on how it is preparing for future financial uncertainty:
- In March, the city launched a hiring freeze, which affected up to 10 regular positions across all city departments. In addition, City Parks and Recreation is slow to fill seven seasonal positions and has laid off 15 recreation employees. The only positions left open are those needed to help the city respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Non-essential projects have also been put on hold. For example, the opening of bids for the Civic Park project was delayed from March to May and the council did not approve a $ 100,000 contract to hire a consultant for a sewer project.
Like most cities across the country, Edmonds develops a financial strategy with triggers and benchmarks that come into play when predetermined financial thresholds are reached. These triggers include percentage decreases in our city’s budget and in our reserve fund.
During Tuesday night’s meeting, CFO Scott James defined three trigger levels:
- Level 1: If the general fund balance falls between 5% and 10%, then there will be a freeze on all new hires, except for crisis intervention staff.
- Level 2: If the General Fund falls below 10%, there will be a freeze on all non-essential spending. This would include projects, equipment and land acquisitions. The city will also use unspent fund balances from some programs to fuel the general fund and may also transfer money from the contingency fund to the general fund.
- Level 3: If the contingency fund is depleted and the general fund falls below 16%, the city will move on to another budgeting phase.
James is also developing multiple scenarios to reflect various financial impacts, running through January 2021, and plans to share that information with city council soon, the city said. It is also possible that local municipalities are eligible for federal and state support.
“We will continue to closely monitor our financial situation and work with City Council on the potential additional actions needed to maintain a healthy and balanced budget,” said Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson, “while making critical investments in our community and the local economy. to help Edmonds recover quickly and sustainably from this crisis. “