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Mayor's Corner: The virus is a disaster

As we wait for Phase 3, this virus is a medical and financial disaster.

 
Series: Coronavirus | Story 116

Last updated 6/19/2020 at 9:29am



As we wait for Phase 3, this virus is a medical and financial disaster.

 

Graduates Parade

Thank you to City Manager Michael Ciaravino, his staff, and the many parents who helped put together the car parade to celebrate the 2020 graduations. Michael and his staff executed a “hurry-up offense” and got the parade rolling in two weeks despite a pandemic and financial crisis.

It’s events like this that make Mill Creek more than just a city. We are a community!

 

Financial mess

Finance Director Jeff Balentine is doing a terrific job keeping us updated on the financial status of the City. Right now, we know we are going to have a huge deficit for this year. Depending on how the economy recovers, the City will likely be financially hurting for another couple of years after this. Fortunately, we have strong management to help guide the council through this mess.

We have already made cuts and frozen hiring. The City Manager sent layoff notices to several employees to begin to make up the impending deficit. Keep in mind, the deficit is not only 2020. We are expecting reduced revenue for at least the next two years.

Layoffs are particularly hard on the council. Some may have friendships with various staff members. Some wanted more economic data before the layoffs. We are all hoping for good news but hope is not a financial strategy. We have a fiduciary responsibility to our residents and businesses even when it is uncomfortable.

Why weren’t the cuts made a month ago if things are so bad? Hope. Hoping that the numbers would not be as bad as are. Hope that the projections would have a better result. They didn’t and likely won’t.

Two points to consider: 1) Other cities have already made more and deeper cuts. 2) These decisions belong to the city manager. We hired him to manage the City. Michael must balance the budget. He’s doing his job.

So, where do we go from here?

New economic data will be available on June 25 or a few days later. Jeff will re-evaluate the projections with any new information. We should also know if we will be in Phase 3 or not. If the virus numbers tick up, we could be in Phase 2 for a while.

As always, I will keep you posted.

 

Grants

I’ve been asked why the City is still proceeding with capital projects if we have a deficit. One word: Grants.

Take the Seattle Hill Road repaving project. We have a $720,000 “use it or lose it” grant to cover part of the costs. If we delay the project, we will have to pay the total cost. Wouldn’t we rather take the grant and save $720,000 for a project that must be done anyway?

We also have a $100,000 grant from the County that must be used this year for the needed renovations at Heron Park. Do we do the project this year and save $100,000, or do we do it next year and pay an extra $100,000? We are doing it this year.

 

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