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Bellingham City Council reviews budget for the Mayor's Office, City Council.

Mayor Seth Fleetwood at the Bellingham City Council Meeting.

By Courtney Gullett

Bellingham City Council heard presentations for the 2021-22 City Council and Mayor's Office budgets. These budgets have been adjusted in the wake of COVID-19.

This budget is special not only because of COVID-19 and the toll it has taken on city coffers, but also because it is the first budget of Mayor Seth Fleetwood’s administration. 

Mayor Fleetwood presented the budget presentation for the Mayor's Office. This budget included a work plan for 2021-22.

According to Fleetwood’s presentation, the work plan focused on key priorities including: emerging from COVID-19 with financial stability, increasing support for behavioral health response, addressing social justice issues, increasing action on climate change, expanding and improving parks and continuing investments in key infrastructure. 

“Our words in stating that certain things are a priority for us is one step in the continuum,” Councilmember Hannah Stone said. “But then needing action to support those words, and ultimately a lot of the action that the community and council and city are asking for requires funding. So, one of the things I've spoken with Mayor Fleetwood about is if there is a way when we say addressing social justice issues through various initiatives that sounds great, but when you look at the budget and you don't see a line item or a financial investment in those causes, I think it raises concerns in the community.”

The line item for other services and charges that include a proposed amount of $238,718 has a portion of money set aside for social justice issues. This money will go toward creating things such as a racial equity commission.

The estimated revenue for the Mayor's Office is $1,137,218 with a proposed expenditure of $2,231,168. This includes six full-time frozen positions, and the largest line item is salaries and wages. 

 “The staff in the Mayor's Office are going to be subject to furloughs,” Fleetwood said. 

In comparison, the Mayor's Office had a total revenue of $1,345,719 with a total expenditure of $2,272,233 in the 2020-21 budget.  

Councilmember Gene Knutson presented the City Council budget. The City Council has been working from home and holding Zoom meetings due to COVID-19. These meetings have been well received, Knutson said. 

The City Council budget includes council member salaries, supporting staff salaries and adjustments for COVID-19 budget restraints. 

The City Council department has 9 full-time frozen positions. The budget has a proposed revenue of $672,665 with a total expenditure of $1,307,473. This includes line items in salaries, personal benefits, supplies and other services. 

In comparison, the total revenue for the 2020-21 budget was $945,784 with a total expenditure of $1,273,846. Within the ‘20-’21 budget, $20,411 more was spent on salaries and wages than in the ‘21-’22 budget. 

Councilmember Knutson noted that the goals of City Council align with the mayor’s work plan and goals. 

“The biggest accomplishment we have had so far this year, number one, is being able to continue to do our work and serve our residents,” Knutson said. 

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