proposes layoffs, fees to help reverse Everett budget deficit
Senior center member fee asked
Carl Gipson Senior Center members (from left, Dianne Campbell of Lake Stevens, Joanne Drebaum of Snohomish, Jan Brown of Everett and Pam Kepford of Everett) work out during a Zumba session at the center on Wednesday, Sept. 5. The Zumba class meets Wednesdays at 4 p.m. A budget proposal the mayor presented last week would introduce a membership fee to use the Carl Gipson Senior Center. Right now, the center is free to everyone over the age of 50.
EVERETT — Calling these “difficult decisions” to address an unsustainable city budget, Mayor Cassie Franklin recently outlined job cuts and service fee increases.
Twenty-one positions, some of which require layoffs, are being culled. Eight positions are meanwhile being added, leaving a net reduction of 13 positions. The cuts spare the rank-and-file at police and fire departments, which are actively hiring to fill vacancies.
The changes are to head off a projected $13 million deficit if the city makes no moves. Franklin called the budget reductions “unappealing” but necessary because of the sheer built-in costs of operating the city.
“We’re making deep cuts — potentially $6 million in cuts — that are long term cuts and savings that can really address the structural nature of our deficit,” Franklin told the City Council last week.
The mayor’s proposed fees include creating a new membership fee to use the Carl Gipson Senior Center, doubling parking tickets to $40 and adding more rental fees for city-owned event spaces. Other proposals are to eliminate the summertime Animal Farm petting zoo program at Forest Park and to make an internal department restructuring.
Upon entering office, fixing the budget problems she inherited was one of Franklin’s priorities. “We collected hundreds of recommendations and worked with our staff to prioritize what could provide the core services — protecting quality of life,” Franklin said.
The city has about 1,190 budgeted positions, up from last year. The city added about 25 positions in the 2017 budget, five of which were uniformed police officers. Even so, the city runs consistently with vacancies. There were almost 50 vacancies citywide as of Sept. 1 compared to the 1,188 positions the budget accounts for.
Amid Franklin’s proposed cuts, one addition is to hire a second person to work on economic development. It was one of Franklin’s mayoral campaign points last fall to enlarge this department, and last week said investing in economic development is the best way to get out from under the deficit.
Adding senior center membership fees would bring in an estimated $21,600 next year, from a city spreadsheet.
Another new fee would establish a police burglar alarm registry and penalize for false alarms.
The biggest cut to balance the 2019 budget would suspend paying $1.75 million in the pension accounts for police and fire retirees. These accounts traditionally are well funded. Another savings on paper would carry $2.3 million forward from unspent 2017 money to the 2019 budget.
The basic cost to operate the city is more than what taxes, economic activity and fees currently pay for. Each year the city tamped down its budget deficit most prominently by deferring expenditures.
For 2019, the city forecasts a $13 million deficit; for 2020, it’s $16 million. A large restructure effort in 2014 helped prevent today’s numbers from ballooning higher (in 2014, the 2018 deficit was forecast at $21 million).
In the restructure, the marketing and communications department would enlarge, and there would be an office of community planning and economic development. The planning and economic development office would be an umbrella office overseeing the planning department, the Office of Neighborhoods, the economic development department and other, independent teams. It will be led by Deputy Mayor Nick Harper.
Meghan Pembroke would continue leading the communications department. She was hired in 2013 as the lead city spokeswoman and since then has taken additional responsibilities and became an executive director soon after Franklin was sworn in.
This month’s legwork within City Hall is to create a balanced budget to present to the City Council in October. Public hearings will be in November and the council is required by state law to approve a balanced budget by Dec. 31.
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