Council begins whittling proposed budget

Published 7:09 pm Tuesday, May 5, 2009

By Staff
Revenues, feesto be addressedat May 18 session
Contributing Editor
Washington officials had their pencils sharpened and fine-toothed combs at the ready Monday as they began cobbling the 2009-2010 fiscal year budget.
It keeps the property-tax rate at its existing level and does not increase fees for water, sewer, stormwater management and trash collection.
The City Council’s first budget work session after receiving the proposed budget last week began the process of finding cuts in expenses and increases in revenues to develop a balanced budget.
Monday’s budget session was more about cutting expenses. The discussion about revenues and fees comes at the next budget session, scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. May 18.
But revenues did get some mention at the first budget session.
Smith’s proposed overall budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1, came in last week at $62.4 million, or $7.96 million less than the current fiscal year’s budget of $70.36 million.
That decline, at least a significant part of it, reflects the decline in revenue the city projected for the upcoming fiscal year. The general-fund segment of the proposed spending plan is $11.3 million, which is $2.3 million less than the current general-fund budget, or a 16.9 percent reduction.
The general-fund budget pays for day-to-day operations, such as public safety, parks and recreation and administration of city government.
As a result of the poor economy and decline in revenues, the city manager did something this year no other city manager, as far as city officials know, has done before: knock out two budgets as the same time.
Smith, in his budget message to the council, said the 2010-2011 spending proposal was developed so the council would be better prepared to deal with the anticipated decline in revenues during the next two fiscal years.
One way for the city to cut expenses is for it to “try to eliminate all scheduled overtime,” something “that’s going to require some stringent management across the departments,” Smith said.
Council members and the mayor are looking at expenses as low as $25 when it comes to saving money.
Councilman Archie Jennings suggested the council consider removing the $1,200 in the budget earmarked for refreshments for the council during its meetings and annual retreat. Jennings said that if the council is asking city employees to make some sacrifices it would at least be a “symbolic” gesture on the part of the council to forgo its snacks.
No action was taken on his suggestion.
Mayor Pro Tempore Doug Mercer questioned the need for spending $500 on a second telephone for an employee who’s got a phone. It turns out that employee has a phone at one work station and a second phone at her other work station.
Mercer said it would be cheaper to buy her a cordless phone for one of the work stations instead of paying for two regular phones for the two work stations. The cordless phone would cost about $30 to $40, he said.
Jennings suggested the city determine if it can save money making council agendas available to council members and the mayor electronically. Currently, paper copies are made of the agendas, and a city police officer delivers them to council members and the mayor.
Jennings wondered if offering agendas electronically wouldn’t save the city money on paper and allow staff members to spend their time on more important things than putting the copies in notebooks.
At its May 18 budget session, the council is expected to discuss public safety budgets and employee compensation and benefits in addition to revenues and fees.