By Debbie Klosowski, Mayor, City of University Place
Adopting the 2011-12 City Budget and discussing options for selecting a regular City Manager were the key topics at this week’s UP City Council meeting.
City Budget – After several months of discussion and review, the Council unanimously adopted the proposed 2011-12 Biennial Budget. The adopted $30 million budget maintains a “pay as you go” strategy such as focusing on road projects that are funded with grants and restricted funds. Major topics within this year’s budget included:
- Adding a police investigator
- Obtaining insurance for the Civic Building
- Eliminating benefits for future Councilmembers
- Maintaining a Strategic Reserve Fund of $824,000
Council Salaries – Council approved a measure to maintain Council salaries at 2010 levels and forego any future COLAs. The Mayor currently receives $1,688 per month, Mayor Pro Tem $1,520 per month and Council $1,408 per month.
Council Benefits – The City Council currently receives a health allowance on top of their annual salary which can be used for medical benefits or as a cash pay-out if they choose not to participate in a health care plan. In a prior discussion, the majority of Council indicated they preferred reducing benefits to a level comparable to staff; however, the Council voted 4-3 Monday night (Klosowski, Belleci, Choiniere and McCluskey) to eliminate medical benefits for all members elected or appointed after January 1, 2011.
(State law does not allow Council to change existing salaries or benefits during their terms). The elimination of medical benefits is expected to save $55,400 starting in 2012 when three new terms begin and $170,000 in 2014 when all Councilmembers are impacted. Approval of both Council salary and benefit measures were contingent upon the creation of a Salary and Benefits Commission next year to examine staff and Council salaries and benefits.
City Manager – Last February, the City Council appointed Steve Sugg as the Interim City Manager for a one year term. At that time, the Council indicated that future options could include selecting Mr. Sugg for the regular position after several months of evaluation or opening up the recruitment process to evaluate other individuals.
Under state law, the City Manager is an “at will” position which means a majority of Council can replace the City Manager at any time. If Council chose to conduct an outside recruitment process, it would cost approximately $15,000 to $25,000 and could take from three to six months.
Discussion ensued among Council regarding the pros and cons of offering a position to Mr. Sugg versus initiating a recruitment process. Potential benefits of hiring Mr. Sugg include knowledge of past job performance, continuity for City administration, no transitional period and continuance of existing working relationships with other jurisdictions. Although an outside recruitment process would take more time and money, it could also result in a pool of several qualified candidates. While an “outside” person would have a lengthier transition period, the individual could also offer a fresh perspective and other strengths.
After a lengthy discussion, the majority of Council agreed to consider the question of offering the position to Mr. Sugg at the December 13 council meeting. Public input is welcome via email, mail or during the public comment portion of the agenda.
In other action, the Council:
- Proclaimed December 11 as Curtis High School Vikings Football Day in honor of the 2010 Vikings Football team which won the South Puget Sound League Championship title for the third time in three years and which went on to the State Championship semi-finals, receiving a ranking of #2 in the WIAA 4A State Championship.
- Recognized UP Code Enforcement Team Jennifer Hales, Travis Lyons and Nels Asplund for their outstanding efforts in assisting the Robin Road neighborhood in removing debris and resolving community concerns.
- Issued preliminary approval for a future Community Garden to Scott Seitz of the Tacoma Narrows Rotary Club. Mr. Seitz is proposing a Rotary project involving a 3,750 square foot garden at the southern portion of Cirque Bridgeport Park. Anyone interested in assisting with this project can contact Scott Seitz at www.tacomanarrowsrotary.org.
- Set a public hearing date for a proposed UP Refuse rate increase on January 10, 2011. The County is increasing the disposal fee from $112.95 to $123.29 per ton, a 9.16% increase. This proposed pass through increase is in accordance with our current franchise agreement. If approved, UP residents’ individual increases will vary based on their service level. The majority of residents use one 24-gallon toter and recycling, which will increase their bill from $16.46 to $16.76 (1.83%) under the proposal. People with a 64 gallon toter with recycling will pay an increase from $21.46 to $22.19 or a 3.41% increase under the proposal.
Food & FUN – Despite some stereotypes that UP is a “rich” community, there are a growing number of people who are in need of help, according to Cindy Huff, Executive Director of Families Unlimited Network. This year there are 425 families or approximately 1,700 individuals per month being served by the local food bank. In comparison, two years ago the food bank was serving 73 families per month.
Besides offering a food bank, FUN also offers SPOT which is an afterschool program for UP students in grades 3-7 which provides tutoring and other activities. FUN also offers rent and utility assistance for people in the 98466 and 98467 zip codes, an annual Back to School Fair to provide students with school supplies and an annual Christmas Drive in conjunction with several other community partners to provide gifts and food to families in need. For more information on FUN, please contact Ms. Huff at 460-3134. The UP Food Bank is located at 2610 Sunset Drive West (behind UP Presbyterian Church).
Holiday Food Drive – Please help families in our community by participating in the Holiday Food Drive on Saturday, December 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. You can drop off items at Fred Meyer (Cirque and 67th), Columbia Bank in Fircrest (intersection of Regents and Mildred) or hand over items through your car window by driving north on Bridgeport and going through a temporary coned off area around the angled parking directly in front of the new Civic building near 36th and Bridgeport.
As always, I welcome your comments and questions. Please feel free to contact me at dklosowski@CityofUP.com.