By Mellow DeTray
Here’s our recap of the Normandy Park City Council meeting held on Tuesday night, Nov. 15, 2023:
Legislation Presentation by Senator Karen Keiser
Washington State Senator Karen Keiser spoke at length on state legislative issues. She said that the state budget is balanced, and Washington now has a triple-A bond rating. The state has never had this high of a bond rating, and it means the interest rate the government pays on borrowed money will be lower.
In the recent legislative session, Senator Keiser said, the state invested $1 billion in housing, $2.9 billion in schools, and $1.2 billion in behavioral health, all without raising taxes. Keiser mentioned that ongoing struggles continue to be public safety and public health issues. She was able to help get $2.9 billion to establish a retail crime task force in order to address organized retail theft. She said drug possession laws were a struggle, and they were able to finally create a new law that gives a treatment option for those caught in possession of illegal drugs, with the aim of stopping the cycle of crime.
In this next legislative session, Keiser said she wants to work to establish a grant program to help small businesses improve their security. She also wants to lift the 1% property tax levy lid, to help cities increase their revenues. She said many cities are struggling with the current limit on property tax increases. During public comments, one community member shared her concern with increasing property taxes, particularly for those on a fixed income.
Councilmember Eric Zimmerman mentioned that many city councils had a turnover in the recent election, voting in more moderate candidates. He believes this reflects a desire for better public safety measures, but said that city council is limited in what they can do. State legislation currently places strict limits on police pursuits, and many criminals seem to be very aware of this limitation. He also mentioned that Washington state has the lowest number of officers per capita in the country. Keiser countered that the law does allow pursuit under certain conditions, and it just requires educating officers about appropriate pursuit. Zimmerman then said that the current “reasonable suspicion” wording exposes our officers to liability. He asked her if she would work to change the wording to reduce liability for officers in pursuing drivers.
Councilmember Shawn McEvoy brought up how much unfunded mandates from the state have hurt local jurisdictions. If state law decrees cities must do something that costs money, they have little support in complying with the mandate if it is unfunded. He then asked for help in getting state money to build a senior center and youth recreation center. Keiser responded that there are state programs that provide grants for recreational programs. She mentioned that Normandy Park needs grant writers to access these funds, but that her office will help.
Keiser will report back at the end of the next legislative session in spring.
Normandy Park Preschool Update
The Normandy Park Preschool was started in 1991 with two teachers and two classrooms, and grew to three classrooms and four staff. The old building had to be razed in 2019, and a beloved teacher left. With that upheaval, plus covid-19, enrollment dropped significantly. However, it picked back up in 2022, and enrollment is nearly at capacity now. The preschool is play-based, believing that play is the highest form of learning for children.
2023-2024 Budget Updates
Interest income and sales tax have both been stronger sources of city revenue than predicted, bringing in additional income that will be spent on digitizing city records. Currently years of required records are kept in boxes, and digitizing these files will free up lots of building space. Next year there will be a $158,000 increase in property tax revenue, but an additional cost for insurance coverage.
Other City Business
During the meeting different speakers’ microphones were cutting out while they were speaking. It was mentioned that people need to be better about turning their mics on in order to be heard by people not physically in the room.
Raymond Street was unanimously reappointed to the Art Commission, and several councilmembers spoke very highly of his work for the city.
In the recent election four incumbent councilmembers ran unopposed. Councilembers Sheri Healey, Shawn McEvoy, Jack Lamanna, and Sue-Ann Hohimer will all be returning to the Normandy Park City Council for another four years.