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City budget is difficult for all

Among the casualties of an Enumclaw budget turned upside down are a handful of social service agencies that have traditionally looked to the city for a helping hand.

Slashed from Mayor Liz Reynolds’ proposed 2011 spending plan are dollars for organizations like Plateau Outreach Ministries, Enumclaw Youth and Family Services and the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce.

For years, such entities have received a portion of their funding from the city’s general fund. In recent budgets, as the city found it tougher to make ends meet, the flow of dollars has been curtailed.

Finally, facing a $600,000 gap between anticipated expenditures and revenues, it appears the city has been forced to halt the handouts.

“For several years now, the city’s expenditures have outpaced revenues” Reynolds wrote in her introduction to her 2011 budget proposal. “This differential cannot be sustained much longer.”

The budget process begins with the mayor submitting a proposed spending plan for the year to come. The seven-member City Council reviews portions of the budget during a series of meetings and the public will have an opportunity to weigh in. Eventually, it is the council’s job to adopt a formal budget. That traditionally happens during the first council meeting in December.

The problem facing Enumclaw is the same one plaguing communities across the state and nation – an economy that plummeted, flattened out and shows no sign of rapid recovery. Economic forecasts, Reynolds wrote, suggest any improvement in the economy won’t arrive until mid-2012 at the earliest.

Things have progressed to the point where one study has suggested the city’s general fund – which provides money for essential services including police and fire protection – could become insolvent by 2012.

“This looming reality forms the backdrop of the 2011 budget,” Reynolds wrote.

At the chamber office, Executive Director Tracey McCallum said the city’s fiscal woes have shaped the way the chamber goes about its business.

“It’s definitely affecting us,” she said. “It’s serious for the visitor center. We’re really going to have to look at how we do this.”

The immediate impact, McCallum said, is the chamber has started seeking sponsorships for the holiday parade. Without the city dollars coming in, she said, the chamber cannot risk starting a new year in a financial hole.

Eliminating funding for outside entities like the chamber and Plateau Outreach Ministries is just one of many steps Reynolds has suggested in her effort to match the dollars going out to the dollars flowing in. City departments are expected to contribute their share to the cost-cutting cause..

In the Parks and Recreation Department, the only programs retained are those that produce revenue; break-even events have been eliminated. Also, by shifting responsibilities, the director’s position remains vacant, a savings of $125,000 when salary and benefits are considered.

The public library is looking at taking a $100,000 hit, which would mean the elimination of staffing hours and a subsequent reduction in hours the doors will be open.

The fire department has identified $60,000 in expenditures that can be cut and will attempt to slash overtime pay by $25,000.

The mayor’s budget also includes more than $100,000 in wage concessions made by city employees. Non-union workers have agreed to forego both a cost-of-living increase and step increases, a move that represents about $72,600. Members of the AFSCME bargaining unit agreed to a pay reduction via furlough days, which will account for about $29,000.

The digging to save money reached to the downtown flower basket program. By placing one basket on each light pole, instead of two, the city expects to save $6,000.

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