The Great Recession began in September 2008 and the effects on the city of Yelm from the abrupt economic downturn were not known to the council until 8 months later. The council was uninformed by the mayor until the Yelm Community Blog broke a shocking story in May 2009, that a 5,000 home development in the city limits had gone bankrupt in November 2008. Yelm is still paying the price today from 2009’s deferred maintenance and upgrades on the water reclamation system due to that economic downturn!
This is Groundhog Day all over again for Yelm!
Now, 5 full weeks into the ravages of an economic assault on our economy from shelter-in-place directives, Yelm City Administrator Michael Grayum told the city council on April 28th that revenues were on track and effects of the COVID-19 outbreak show minimal impact to the city’s collection of the first installment of 2020 property taxes due April 30. Grayum added that city staff are currently developing a long term revenue forecast modeling the impacts of COVID-19.
REALLY? This is not rocket science to note the economic hardships the world, nation, state and Yelm are enduring. That city leaders have not instituted a plan for the hit to revenues that begin today is a travesty, when so many will not be able to pay rent, or their water/sewer bills, or property taxes, or insurance, in order to have enough money to buy food and pay their phone bill! However, taxpayers were allowed to defer their payments post-April 30.
Rep. Andrew Barkis (R- Olympia), owner of the Yelm office of his Olympia-based Hometown Property Management said, “It’s looking a lot worse.” Most tenants paid their rent on April 1, falling only a couple of weeks after the governor ordered schools and businesses to close. But May 1 is likely to look a lot different!
THE CITY IS SPENDING WHEN THEY SHOULD CONSERVE CASH!
The Yelm city council received a briefing from their engineering firm on all of the expenditures and planning for Capital Improvement Projects full-steam ahead, when they should be immediately freezing ALL projects!
Public Works projects explained to the council on April 28th were:
+ Roads – overlay project assessment underway on which city streets will be paved or overlayed,
+ Right-of-way (ROW) acquisition – the engineering firm is ready to make an offer to purchase land to extend Mosman Rd, with intent to complete the ROW phase by end of this year. This project is slated to go into construction if funding is restored for 2021 (Really?).
+ Mill Rd. sidewalk project – announced low bidder for starting construction which was covered by a grant to the city, with the balance funded by Yelm Community Schools.
+ Yelm Splash Park – awaiting permit from Thurston County to open the facility, while preparation work is on-going.
+ Longmire Park – planning for improvements of Longmire drainage of fields water system projects
+ Water main extension projects – along Wal-Mart Blvd., Grove Rd., 103rd, and Canal Rd. to support new water storage project for a required water reservoir the city needs on the east side of town for fire support. There is property being eyed near Wal-Mart to acquire.
WHERE IS THE DISCUSSION AND PLANNING FOR YELM’S ECONOMIC WELL BEING IN THE PANDEMIC’S MIDST?
Mayor Foster told a recent webinar that the city will be in a tough spot in 3-6 months if revenues go down significantly. Even if/when the city gets some federal aid, that will not be enough. Mr. Foster, these headlines should make you shudder:
+ US weekly jobless claims hit 3.84 million, topping 30 million over the last 6 weeks, with the state of Washington showing the biggest gains for the week
+ Olympia hosts town hall on rent relief, mortgage resources – what IS Yelm doing for their citizens?
+ Lacey adjusts budget after slower economy tied to COVID-19 blows $6 million hole in it
“Facing a $6.32 million shortfall in its general fund budget for 2020, Lacey City Manager Scott Spence outlined to City Council on Thursday [April 23] the steps the city took to fill that hole.”
“Lacey has not been immune to those changes in the economy, resulting in steep drops in sales tax and business and occupation tax revenue, plus other sources of revenue as well, all of which has resulted in an 11 percent drop in its general fund budget, or $6.32 million. The city’s general fund budget for 2020 was $52 million.”
“To address the shortfall, the city has implemented a hiring freeze, suspended capital projects, furloughed part-time staff — primarily in the parks department — tapped operating reserves and suspended equipment purchases,” by Rolf Boone, The Olympian. Read more
Doing the math, IF Yelm has a similar 10-11% drop in the city’s general fund budget, the loss of $700,000 of the city’s revenue would do substantial damage budget of almost $7 million.
Why has Yelm still not moved forward taken Lacey’s steps, “implemented a hiring freeze, suspended capital projects, furloughed part-time staff — primarily in the parks department — tapped operating reserves and suspended equipment purchases.”
Grayum indicated the city has largely ceased hiring for new positions, though the staff is still working to fill crucial vacant positions. REALLY? Mayor Harding was forced to cut 6 positions in 2009, including a police officer.
An economic tsunami is approaching while the City Administrator tells council that revenues were on track and effects of the COVID-19 outbreak show minimal impacts. REALLY? What about preparing for the future?