We know that many of you are financially, physically, and emotionally impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This is such a difficult time for our community and families, but we will get through it together. Here at the city, we were already tightening our belt to face a financially challenging budget for 2021-2022 due to a historical structural deficit. Our budget situation is now compounded by loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 shutdown.
Top Priorities – Health, Safety, Infrastructure
As we start to see immediate impacts to money coming in and plan for economic conditions to worsen over the next few years, we must cut our budget and adjust city operations quickly. As we make decisions, please know that your public health and safety is our first priority. Next, we must maintain and protect valuable infrastructure and property in our city (roads, sewer systems, drainage systems, etc.). My guidance to staff is to manage taxpayer dollars wisely and do everything we can to streamline services and ensure essential services continue.
We are still analyzing revenue projections for 2020 and there are still many unknowns right now, but we are forecasting at least a $5.4M shortfall in our general fund just this year. With business closures, construction slowdown, and mandatory social distancing measures, we expect significant decreases in sales tax, permit and review fees, park and sportsfield rental fees, and program income.
Like many other cities and employers in our area, we have some tough decisions to make. City leadership is considering and evaluating all options to determine how city services might be reimagined, decreased, or eliminated altogether. We are working closely with City Council and our valued employees and labor partners, both union and non-union, to find the least disruptive ways to mitigate the effects of lost revenues.
- Working with our Executive Leadership Team, we have already taken the following actions:
- Paused all hiring and overtime, with specific position exceptions
- Scrutinized our operational budget to cut spending and look for efficiencies
- Frozen all travel and training
- Executive Management Team voluntarily agreed to a 10% furlough, effective May 1st, resulting in salary decreases
- Non-union staff will now also be taking a 10% furlough and positions have been identified for layoff
- Initiated discussions with unions to discuss organization furloughs, layoffs and other cost saving measures
Unfortunately, we’ve also had to make some other difficult decisions. Summer months are some of our favorites here in Bothell, filled with beloved events that have been taking place in our community for decades. This year, we are deeply saddened to announce we will be canceling these annual events, including but not limited to: 4th of July Freedom Festival, Fire Department Pancake Breakfast, Music in the Park, Sustainamania, Just Kidding Around Concert series, and Blyth Park Family Campouts. All summer recreation classes and summer camps are also canceled. We recognize this is extremely disappointing, but, the long-term health of our community is important and we will likely still be avoiding large gatherings. Planning for these activities also has to happen right now, which is proving difficult. Unfortunately, we just don’t have the resources and funding needed to make these events successful at the same level as we have in past years.
Our finance team will continue to assess the immediate financial impacts, as real data for sales tax and property taxes comes in. We will provide updates and more detailed information on budget predictions and service changes as we have them. As we continue with our budget process for 2021-2022, there will be multiple opportunities for community feedback. You can follow the budget process this year at www.bothellwa.gov/budget.
We do expect our two new Fire Station projects to continue to move forward, as they are bond-funded, but the timeline may be slightly delayed as a result of construction slowdowns and current work conditions.
Our Emergency Coordination Center is planning how to slowly and safely reopen, once we are given more guidance from the state and counties on when that might be, and what it should look like.
Thank you for staying home, looking out for each other, supporting our local businesses, and always showcasing our strong sense of Bothell community spirit, despite these difficult and odd times we find ourselves in.
Jennifer Phillips, City Manager