The numbers game called the 2013 preliminary city budget has been presented to the City Council and now the deliberations begin.
The council is tasked with considering and eventually approving a city budget sometime prior to Jan. 1. The preliminary budget is a draft presented by the administration outlining the financial needs and proposed allocations.
The council will be considering the proposed budget over the next weeks and months. The final decision on the purse strings is solely in the hands of the council.
Mayor Liz Reynolds highlighted three issues that were priorities for the administration in the 2013 budget.
• Human Service Funding
The funding of human services like Plateau outreach, Enumclaw Youth and Family and others were considered by the Human Services Advisory Board, which made recommendations.
Reynolds wrote in an email, “Recognizing human services needs in a down economy are always greater, but the reality of the financial outlook and the realities that revenues are still in jeopardy and limited.”
The mayor said the board was sent, “the level of funding that the council allocated in their final adopted budget last year. That amount was $42,000.”
The board made the allocation recommendations which the administration used in the 2013 budget.
A significant issue for the administration is the wage gap between union and non-union staff.
The mayor said the union employees, about 72, have received wage adjustments while the non-union staff, about 23, received no cost of living increases.
The proposed budget would add $42,000 for nonunion employees.
“Disparities hinder good morale and reduces dollars in the community,” Reynolds said in the email. “Forcing employees financially backwards only hurts our community as a whole overall and certainly hurts an organization.”
The third issue is funding streets improvements.
Reynolds wrote, “I see streets as a fundamental service of the city being a city. It is what I identify as a core service.”
The administrations preliminary budget proposes allotting $250,000 for street improvements.
“Without funding decisions and a street plan implementation this issue will continue to grow into a more expensive project as long as it continues to not be funded,” Reynolds wrote.
• City Council
Councilman Mike Ennis wrote in an email concerning the budget, “It’s easy when you don’t have any money. Tax revenues continue to fall and I think administration has done a decent job at keeping costs in line while maintaining the city’s core services.
Ennis does take exception with a proposed increase in property taxes and he wrote he was “worried and frustrated about the golf course.”
Ennis said he wants the administration to look at “privatizing some of the operations.”
The councilman said as the golf course went to a “completely public operation, the golf course took a dive and now requires its own subsidy. This is unacceptable.”
Councilman Kevin Mahelona said in an email, “Based on the parts of the budget I’ve reviewed so far, I feel the majority of it is OK since it is funding existing basic core services and I appreciate the administrations continued focus on taking care of the basics.”
Mahelona pointed to some challenges ahead pointing to the cost to the city for the golf course operation and funding the youth center.
He said the council has big decision ahead, “regarding funding for the youth center…. (the youth center contractor) has said they will no longer fund the majority of the expenses ($75,000) for the center…. as they have for the past two years. Their position is it is the city’s youth center and we are responsible for funding it and not them, which is a valid point.”
Mahelona agreed finding funding for street repairs will be necessary, “as well as a new utility (surface water management) which is being mandated by the state Department of Ecology.”
The councilman said another area of concern the council will have to study is the Expo Center profit and loss financials.
“It always comes down to setting priorities,” Mahelona said.