Not much wiggle room in
Everett’s budget balancing plan
Mayor Cassie Franklin is scheduled to release her 2021 budget on Sept. 16
EVERETT — The city has figured out a balanced budget on paper which appears to be contingent that it get $1 million in concessions from its municipal employee unions.
The unions are open to talking, city executive director Lori Cummings told the City Council at a budget briefing last week.
Mayor Cassie Franklin is scheduled to release her budget Sept. 16. The council will spend the next three months further discussing it.
The council was given one last overview last week on a list of balancing options, but what is clear is that the cutbacks being proposed are not easy to switch out.
The city’s sliced so thin that if took these cutbacks off the table, its recourse for cutting elsewhere is reducing its city headcount.
The mayor could not identify any alternatives available to cut. “There’s really not other areas of funding,” Franklin said.
The budget balancing figures from last week do not factor in the COPS grant monies or associated costs with hiring officers. “There will be ensuing discussion and planning regarding the future allocation of those funds,” city spokeswoman Kimberley Cline said by email.
The city helped fill in its budget hole by making reductions to its street paving overlay work and by using $2.8 million of its available 2019 budget surplus. The city also will presume to have 28 employee positions open because of general turnout and employee churn. On paper, this provides a budget savings worth $1.1 million.
Including a presumed $1 million in labor union concessions, these changes resulted in a remaining $10 million gap.
On the list to cover the $10 million is to sustain many of the cuts to services the city took during this year in response to COVID-19.
For example, the Forest Park Swim Center will remain closed.
Operations at the Carl Gipson Senior Center might be outsourced for it to be able to reopen. It won’t be with city staff, who were all laid off. The city would like to hear from groups that can provide senior services.
The effect on the city’s two libraries would be to have one branch only operate six days a week instead of seven. The library’s budget is being trimmed by almost $1 million in the budget plan, leaving it a $4.4 million budget to work with.
Cultural arts would continue to have no manager, but other employees have been picking up the slack. The arts grants program will have $40,000. It will continue to pursue make downtown a state-certified Creative Arts District, which has certain perks.
The Neighborhoods department would have no manager, either. The position wouldn’t be refilled after Wendy McClure retired.
The city’s Safe Streets jail diversion program, a work crew program for individuals arrested for low-level crime to be referred for the work crew instead of jail, would be cut to save $110,000.
Other events are canceled. The city would seek to outsource the Fourth of July parade. One of the events that will survive is Sorticulture.
Trips to Jetty Island will need another source of money instead of the Parks Department.
Among what’s dead: The annual Camp Patterson program, recreation leagues and recreational classes. The city is looking for private partners to take these programs on.
“We went for preserving parks and the recreation department was hit hard,” said Cummings, a prior parks director who now works in the mayor’s office.
The meal program at the senior center, hosted by Homage Senior Services, will continue. There are 30 to 40 people who come to pick up a meal each day, assistant parks director Kimberly Shelton said.
The largest piece for the balance sheet is not making a $3.8 million contribution to its LEOFF 1 pension for police and firefighters next year. The pension fund has prior money in it.
The city removed more than $2 million in labor costs by trimming its workforce; most of the cutbacks were through an employee buyout and retirement program.
About 60 employees accepted voluntary severance packages from the city. A further one-dozen city employees who didn’t, or were ineligible for severance, were laid off.
Much of the $2 million in labor cutbacks originated from a $3.4 million reduction package approved in April in response to COVID-19.
Franklin said these impacts are affecting city responsiveness.
“The cuts are effecting our efficiency” as a city, Franklin said. “We’re moving more slowly and we simply don’t have the manpower.”
It couldn’t implement staff furloughs without union approval. (During this spring, it did furlough employees.)
Councilman Jeff Moore addressed the public from his position.
“Year after year, we have had the opportunity to addresses these things (in the budget) … we need to take responsibility,” adding “Before we even went into COVID, we already knew we had a structural deficit.”
Before coronavirus restrictions restricted businesses, the city had a $13 million deficit to figure out by 2021. It dealt with similar deficits in prior years by tightening itself further.
The public is still giving comments on the budget, and can write to the mayor and council.
To send all of the council members an email, the email address is email@example.com. Mayor Franklin’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mail can be sent to Lori Cummings, executive director, at 2930 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201, Suite 10-A.
The city has a 2021 Budget section on its website with up-to-date documents and charts. The link is www.everettwa.gov/2021budget
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