Administration plans to tackle rising health insurance costs in 2013-2014 budget

With the summer beginning to wind down on the second year of Bonney Lake’s budget biennium, the administration begins work on the next two years of finances. The forecast? More of the same.

“The 2013-2014 budget will be lean,” Mayor Neil Johnson said in a memo sent to the city’s management team.

While Bonney Lake is doing better than many other cities and is not planning on cuts or layoffs, the lean years once again mean no new hires and a hope that attrition may help thin the city’s payroll.

The administration also has a directive from the city council, who actually approves the spending plan, to spend no more money than the city takes in, so the mayor has asked department heads to make their budgets without dipping into the city’s fund balance.

“We hope to balance the budget with position freezes in order to minimize potential layoffs,” Johnson writes, but later in the memo concedes “Given the budget target for 2013, it is highly unlikely that it can be met without a reduction in staffing levels.”

The administration is also looking into changing the way the city handles health insurance for its employees.

“This will be the budget that we seriously attempt to tackle the issue of escalating health care costs,” the memo states, adding that the city’s current policy of absorbing “close to 100 percent” of costs is “not sustainable.”

The memo is also clear on the topic of new initiatives from any of the city’s departments.

“Since there will be no money for expanded operations, any requests for new initiatives will need to be offset by programs or services you would discontinue in your department to fund the new initiative,” it states.

The mayor also anticipates the council putting a city-wide park district on the ballot in April and a transportation benefit district in late 2014 or early 2015 as a way to fund street improvements.

Budget worksheets are due back tot he administration by Sept. 30, with discussions beginning in October and a vote of the council due by the end of the year.