Fall is in the air, and that means Budget discussions down at City Hall.
2011-12 Budget – The UP City Council got its first look at the proposed 2011-12 City budget this week. Interim City Manager Steve Sugg presented an overview of the financial state of the City and his budget proposal, followed by presentations from individual department heads. Even though the City has already undergone significant budget cuts during the past few years, the continuing impacts of the national economic situation are affecting our ability to provide basic services. There are also two statewide initiatives on the ballot this fall concerning State run liquor stores that, if approved, will affect our proceeds from that state shared revenue which is approximately $410,000 this year.
The bottom line is: Reduced funding means reduced services to our community.
Last year, we experienced a 15% decrease in anticipated operating revenues. We cut back on projected expenses and reduced employee compensation through mandatory furloughs without pay and benefits. All departments, including police, were reduced to core staffing levels, resulting in a minimum service level. For example, our 2009 police staffing level of 23 officers (three per shift) was reduced to 15 officers or two per shift. A proposal to eliminate recreation programs last year was discarded due to a $120,000 general fund subsidy and an $80,000 community fundraising effort.
The proposed 2011-12 budget basically “holds the line” at core services. During the next two years, we anticipate that most of our revenues and expenses will remain relatively flat at the current reduced levels. Our budget is balanced, with the City meeting all of its legal and debt obligations.
City staff salaries are frozen at 2009 levels with no COLA or merit pay increases. Right now, we have one of the lowest staffing levels per population compared to surrounding jurisdictions. To maximize staff resources at these substantially reduced levels, we have cross-trained our employees to cover a multitude of responsibilities.
Economic development efforts, including the Town Center project, are still underway; however, we are basing our budget on conservative estimates that do not rely on any major land sales over the next two years.
Some of the major discussion points during the council’s budget meetings this week included the impact of declining revenues on three specific departments, namely Police, Public Works, and Parks and Recreation. Some of the highlights included the following:
Police – Proposed police staffing remains at two officers per shift. According to Police Chief Rusty Wilder, this level significantly limits the ability of officers to do follow up work on cases along with any proactive police work. Citizens who stop in at the police station are often unable to meet with officers since they are out on patrol. There are also certain types of calls, such as Domestic Violence, in which officers are required to respond in pairs.
In 2009, there were 17,726 calls for service with 22 patrol deputies which breaks down into 806 calls per officer per year. In comparison, there were 13,031 calls for service to date in 2010 with 15 deputies which breaks down into 869 calls each. The 2010 projected total calls for service in University Place is 19,929 which breaks down into 1,329 calls for each of the 15 officers.
In response to a council question, Chief Wilder indicated adding an investigator would result in more local follow up on cases, rather than sending cases downtown where they may or may not receive priority given the overall county workload. Adding an investigator would cost approximately $142,000 the first year under the current county contract which covers salary, car, benefits and a pro-rated share of support services (such as SWAT team and arson investigation).
Public Works – Public Works will continue to maintain storm drainage ponds along with street asphalt patching and crack sealing. There are no funds budgeted for street overlays and paving which, while more expensive than patches, extend the life of the street and avoid costlier reconstruction projects in the future.
Recreation – The proposal is to continue an annual general fund subsidy of $120,000 along with continued reliance on the community to raise $80,000 each year to support youth and senior programs. We will continue to rely heavily on community partners and volunteers to spearhead community events.
Public Participation in the Budget Process – There are many opportunities for the public to gather information and participate in the 2011-12 budget process:
UPTV – Interested people can view City budget presentations on UPTV (Click! Channel 12 and Comcast Channel 21) beginning at 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. every day of the week:
- 8 a.m. – October 4 meeting (Budget overview, Public Safety, City Attorney, Public Works, Parks and Recreation and Engineering) followed at approximately
- 11:10 a.m. – October 5 meeting (City Manager, City Council, Human Resources, City Clerk, IT/Communications, Finance, Economic Development, Development Services).
- Pierce County TV (Channel 22 on Click! or Comcast) will air the October 4 meeting on Saturday, October 9 at 2 p.m. and Sunday, October 10 at 2 a.m. The October 5 meeting will air Saturday, October 16 at 2 p.m. and Sunday, October 17 at 2 a.m.
All budget meetings and documents are also available for viewing online at the City’s homepage at www.CityofUP.com.
Budget Open House – Everyone is encouraged to attend a Budget Open House on Tuesday, October 19, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at City Hall. People can visit with various department heads followed by a question and answer session. Anyone wishing to comment on the proposed budget can do so by email (city_hall@CityofUP.com, calling City Hall at 460-2500 or sending letters to the UP City Council, 3715 Bridgeport Way W, University Place 98466. The public can also provide comments at the November 1 and November 15 scheduled budget meetings.
The Duck is Coming! – Join us at the unveiling of the “duck” on Market Square in front of the Civic Building on Saturday, October 16, at 1 p.m.
Fall Clean Up, Recycling and Canned Food Drive – Get rid of yard waste, old appliances and other items at the annual clean up and recycling event at UP Refuse, 2815 Rochester St. West (behind Cheers West on 27th Street). (Please contact UP Refuse at 564-3212 for a list of allowed items or visit our website at www.CityofUP.com.)
Residents north of 40th Street can drop off items on Saturday, October 16 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. while residents south of 40th can participate on Saturday, October 23 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Please bring in canned food as well to replenish the UP Food Bank.
Make A Difference Day – Help clean local parks on Saturday, October 23 from 9 a.m. to noon. This year’s event centers on Adriana Hess Wetland Park (2917 Morrison Road) and the “Morrison” natural wooded area on 67th Avenue directly across from the Fircrest Golf Course (3124 67th Avenue West).Please bring rakes, shovels, pruners and hand gloves. For more information, please contact Todd Smith at 460-5432.
As always, I welcome your comments and suggestions. Please feel free to contact me at dklosowski@CityofUP.com or by calling 460-2500.