Normandy Park Council hires city manager, preps for budget hearing

Mark Hoppen

by Jack Mayne

Mark Hoppen was approved as the new Normandy Park city manager by the City Council at their meeting Tuesday night (April 14), and his first day “on the clock” will be May 1 with assistance for a week or so by interim City Manager Bob Jean.

Hoppen will have a starting salary of $125,000 a year, and he get two weeks of vacation after six months service, as well as a $250 a month vehicle expense in lieu of a city car.

Jean said that the Council has agreed to have a “manager’s performance and goal setting” public meeting on Saturday, May 16, from 9 a.m. to Noon in the Council chambers.

The Budget Dilemma
Citizens will get a chance next Tuesday (April 28) to comment on and hear explanation about why the 2015-2016 biennial budget must be revised and some taxes are proposed to be added or increases.

The Council, in study session Tuesday night, discussed the proposed changes brought about when it was discovered that errors were made in figuring tax income amounts when the budget, drafted by then-City Manager Glenn Akramoff, was approved in December 2014.

Jean said the study session last Tuesday was so the entire Council could hear the material already covered by the Council Finance Committee, chaired by Councilmember Kathleen Waters, and prior to a public hearing on April 28.

“Tonight is the night for you to get all of the questions of Jennifer and me asked,” Jean said, referring to newly hired Finance Manager Jennifer Ferrer-Santa Ines.

“I’ve done my job which was to get you a balanced budget proposal again, because, as you know, the budget that we adopted wasn’t, it turned out, balanced.”

Proposal or All Cuts
Finance Committee Chair Waters said she wanted to start her committee report by talking about a “no new revenues and all cuts” budget, which would not consider potential difficulties maintaining police and of continuing the practice of leaving roads on a back burner while other matters were addressed. In that case there would be no need for utility franchise fees or an urgent move to ask voters to approve a levy lid lift.

It seemed appropriate to look beyond the 2015 – 2016 biennium so the committee got from Ferrer-Santa Ines a five year projection, Waters said – something they did not have before.

“I think it will really help all of us understand what our options are for this biennium,” she said.

Waters said Jean had prepared outlines on two ways the Council could take to resolve the budget imbalance after the hearing next week.

One way would be to adopt proposed new revenues at the meeting, lower some appropriations and pass a storm water utility tax 2 percent increase – from 6 percent to 8 percent ¬– and pass a $20 per vehicle license fee and adopt a 6 percent water and sewer utility tax.

The other way proposed by Jean would be to pass the budget amendments and have further discussions later on for several matters, including the storm water utility tax, the water and sewer utility tax to allow negotiations with the utilities on paying a franchise fee rather than a tax and the Transportation Benefit District (TBD) $20 per vehicle fee.

Also delayed to June or July would be “discussions of the next levy lid lift for 2016 to file with King County by August for the November election.

This second method of handling the budget shortfall would mean an August review “for further cuts” if there are no new revenues.

The idea of this proposal, said Waters, was to “give the community a chance to weigh in, to hear about this, to really understand it and to have a serious communications thrust from the Council that we are working on these issues and that there are new expenses that will be coming to the taxpayers.”

Video to inform citizens
Mayor Susan West said the city ought to consider making a video to play on the city’s television channel to explain the reasons for the need to increase some fees and taxes.

Jean said that would be possible soon as the City Council has approved a new audio and video system for Council and other city meetings that should be in place by mid-May, and could be used to have two-way conversations over the video channel.

Some of the problems with predicting the problems of the budget had been seen by the previous finance manager who had left the city before the budget was completed by former City Manager Akramoff, and then Ferrer-Santa Ines found the same problems when she was hired.

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