City Manager Proposes Spending Cuts, Service Reductions in 2011-2012 Budget
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Updated Public Budget Hearings Schedule Announced
Recessionary economic conditions and lagging tax revenues will force the city to reduce staffing to 2003 levels and reduce spending by $2.0 million next year, explained City Manager Rich Conrad at Monday’s City Council meeting.
“The City’s top priority with this budget is preserving public safety and other essential services. In order to preserve these essential services, we have to cut general fund expenditures by about 8% in the next biennium. In addition to layoffs, we’re making cuts to discretionary spending, and City employees are making difficult sacrifices,” said Conrad.
The City’s Preliminary 2011-2012 Budget proposes one-time and ongoing service reductions as well as eliminating employees’ cost of living adjustments. The City will eliminate 8.4 jobs in 2011, or 4% of the City’s workforce, in addition to cuts to non-essential services.
Some of the reductions to non-essential programs proposed in the Preliminary 2011-2012 Budget include:
· Service reductions at specific parks, including the maintenance levels of fields, restrooms, and other parks facilities
· Eliminating the City’s subsidy for the fireworks show at Summer Celebration
· Eliminating several city sponsored and free to the public arts and recreation programs, including Mostly Music in the Park, Shakespeare in the Park, the Spring Egg Hunt, Adventure Playground, and the Fun Mobile
· Eliminating the tree planting program
In addition to service reductions, the Preliminary 2011-2012 Budget proposes the Council adopt some new revenue sources in order to balance the budget as required by Washington state law.
Potential sources of revenue include a number of new or increased fees for ambulance transportation to hospitals, building permits, and field rentals.
City Manager Conrad also proposed the Council adopt a 1% property tax increase, which would raise property taxes an average of $12 per household per year. The City Council can raise property taxes a maximum of 1% per year.
“With the burst of the housing bubble, we’ve seen property values decrease substantially, along with property tax revenues. The average Mercer Island household saw its property tax bill decrease by more than $500 last year alone,” noted Conrad.
“None of the options we face as a city are pleasant. Fortunately, the City is weathering the recession better than many other sales tax dependent cities. In these tough times, we have to make tough choices. We want to encourage Mercer Islanders to share their views and participate in the budget process as the council deliberates the available options,” added Conrad.
City Council meetings are open public meetings that offer citizens the opportunity to partake in the budget process by sharing their opinions and insight. Citizens are invited to attend council meetings as well as the public budget hearings scheduled throughout October and November.
City of Mercer Island budget meeting schedule:
· October 18 - Regular council meeting, 7:00pm: Public hearing: Preliminary budget review of Capital Improvement Program and utility funds
· November 1 - Regular council meeting, 7:00pm: Public hearing: Preliminary budget review of other operating funds (beautification, municipal arts, Youth and Family Services, equipment rental, computer equipment, contingency, firemen’s pension)
· November 4 - Special council meeting, 6:00pm: Public hearing: Preliminary budget review of Criminal Justice Fund and General Fund (City Council, City Manager’s Office, City Attorney’s Office, Finance Department, Fire Department, Human Resources, Maintenance Department, Municipal Court, non-departmental and Police Department operating budgets)
· November 15 - Regular council meeting, 7:00pm: Public hearing: Preliminary budget review of General Fund (Parks and Recreation Department and Development Services Group operating budgets), follow-up items, adoption of 2011 property tax levy,adoption of 2011 utility rates and adoption of 2011 development fees
· December 6 - Regular council meeting, 7:00pm: Adoption of 2011-2012 Final Budget
All meetings will take place in the Council Chambers in City Hall located at 9611 SE 36th Street. For more details and to view budget documents, visit www.mercergov.org/budget. The Preliminary 2011-2012 Budget is now available online.