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Some get a reprieve as city council massages 2003 budget

The budgetary ax has hovered over a handful of Enumclaw city departments for weeks now, as climbing costs and dwindling revenues forced city officials to make tough choices regarding both programs and personnel. When the ax figuratively fell last week, there was damage done, but the impact wasn't as severe as initially feared.

Enumclaw City Council members have ironed out an operating budget for next year, and are expected to formally adopt the spending plan Monday night.

While council members attempted to ease the pain a bit, citizens will still feel the effect of Enumclaw's 2003 general fund budget. Library hours will be reduced (including complete closure on Fridays), there'll be one less police officer patrolling the streets and there's far less money for supporting the arts, for example.

During a budget hearing Nov. 26, members of the Enumclaw City Council opted to pare back some of the cuts that had been suggested by city administration. In the end, the council pared nearly $260,000 from what had been initially requested; they had started with a budget document calling for cuts totaling almost $273,000.

The city had been lobbied heavily by members of the local senior citizen community, who were upset that the city had proposed a drastic reduction in the hours for a van driver at the senior center. The van provides transportation to activities at the center, as well as medical appointments, shopping and trips to the pharmacy. The position has been funded to the tune of about 1,800 hours per year and the city's initial spending plan called for a reduction to about 1,000 hours. Council members added enough money to keep the driver behind the wheel for about 1,500 hours next year, according to City Administrator Mark Bauer.

Another primary area of concern was in the Parks and Recreation Department, where the original budget had called for cutting the department's one maintenance worker from full-time to just half-time. That would have had a huge impact on the Boise Creek sixplex and all neighborhood parks, council members were told. They opted to leave the position at its traditional full-time status.

Also, the city had looked at eliminating a planner from the Department of Community Development, a move that could have slowed the permit process for all those working with the city. The council chose to retain the position, taking the money from elsewhere in the department. A slot for a building inspector will remain vacant and the city will instead spend $12,000 for services from a private contractor.

A segment of the city staff was helped by the council action, getting a better pay bump than figured (though still below original expectations). Non-union employees had initially been slated for a cost-of-living wage increase of 2.5 percent. That was dropped to 1.5 percent in the original budget, but bumped to 2 percent by the council.

Several agencies that count on the city for financial help saw their contributions boosted by the council, though not to levels previously enjoyed. The Enumclaw Area Chamber of Commerce had asked for $20,000; the recommendation was to provide $15,000, but the council approved $18,000. The Enumclaw Downtown Partnership had asked for $30,000; the council gave $27,000, or $2,000 more than was originally planned. And the King County Sexual Assault Resource Center received $8,000; the organization had hoped for $9,000 but feared it would receive only $5,000.

A handful of departments had already been impacted by a hiring freeze and the cemetery recently had one of its two maintenance workers laid off. Those limitations were kept in place.

Kevin Hanson can be reached at khanson@courierherald.com

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