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December 12, 2018

12/5/2018 8:23:00 AM
Council cuts budget $50,000 to support dike fund
Will pass 2019 budget Dec. 11

A conscientious, responsible Town Council, led by a determined Mayor Ramon Hayes, discharged its duties at its meeting Nov. 27. Early on Hayes warned the room, then full of people, “This conversation will be hard tonight. It will be a long meeting. I give you fair warning.”
Council members came in prepared to cut $50,000 from the general fund budget, almost five percent.
They did it by sacrificing Council and Mayoral items, reducing fire department expenses and shrinking their support for Art’s Alive. Hayes and the Council made a commitment to rethink the 34 year old event’s entire approach.
Art’s Alive joined the ring dike as a topic seriously discussed at length.
The general fund cuts allowed those monies to be moved to the flood control, or dike, project.
It was past 7 p.m. when the budget cuts, decided on in pre-session discussions, were voiced and agreed upon. Council cut $15,350 from its, the mayor’s and staff travel and support funds. It reduced the fire department budget by $19,000, 28 percent, though a note reads the salaries line was “very padded.” And $15,000 was removed from the fun category: $4,000 from the July 4th festivities and $8,000 from Art’s Alive.
Hayes reflected on that event’s origins, when art in individual stores, not Maple Hall, was the focus. He called for “a new path, even if we don’t know what that path will be.”
Rebecca Strong, arts commission chair and the 2018 Art’s Alive coordinator, shared in the discussion, emphasizing, “it should be an event celebrating the whole town” and distributed more evenly, including Morris Street.
Council member, arts commissioner and Art’s Alive champion John Leaver suggested both a biennial event and that more discussion was needed ahead of decisions.
Hayes ended the conversation, repeating the budget cut to $10,000, suggesting a budget of zero some years and emphasizing the “budget cuts were thought through and not knee jerk to be lamented over.”
After discussion of all the proposed cuts, Hayes asked for two motions, to approve the cuts and move the funds to flood control. Council passed both unanimously.
Council also held a public hearing on property tax revenues source, addressing a 2019 Property Tax increase of 4.86 percent, including the 101 percent increase of $3,098 and the banked capacity of $13,640, for a total of $16,738. Resident Dan O’Donnell again brought up the three-year maximum increase state law allows.
During discussion Hayes pointed out that the “general fund is depleted.” Council member Jacques Brunisholz called for “banked capacity,” and made the motion to approve. The vote was unanimous.
Councilmember Bill Stokes was absent and excused from the meeting.
Two long presentations, by new Mount Vernon YMCA Director Dean Snyder and Doug ten Hoopen, director of the country department of emergency management followed resident Tim Hyatt, a La Conner resident and fisheries scientist, to open the meeting. 
Hyatt spoke to the significant damage catastrophic flooding will have.
He told Council that the dike between the town and Sullivan Sough, on the eastside, is both very low and vulnerable. If water was to spill over the top at a high tide and a storm surge, it would erode away rapidly.
“We need to spend more time for disaster planning, emergency planning. Anything else will be irresponsible,” he told Council while passing out a map he made showing the reach of such a flood.
Citizen Rick Dahl spoke first, asking about the fire truck stored at First Street Museum. Fire Chief Morrison responded it would be returned after bringing Santa to Gilkey Square Dec. 1. It was moved to the Fire Hall for repairs.

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