Breaking down Redmond's budget, part 2 | Examining infrastructure, community building and public safety
By SAMANTHA PAK
Redmond Reporter Reporter
November 12, 2010 · Updated 12:23 PM
Editor's note: This is the second of a two-part series examining Redmond Mayor John Marchione's 2011-12 Budget by Priorities (BP) proposal. The budget contains six priorities: Business Community, Responsible Government, Clean and Green, Infrastructure and Growth, Community Building and Safety. Part two will focus on the last three priorities: Infrastructure and Growth, Community Building and Safety.
The Redmond City Council is reviewing Mayor John Marchione's 2011-12 Budget by Priorities proposal at weekly study sessions this month with approval scheduled for early December.
The public will have an opportunity to comment on the mayor's proposed budget at Tuesday's council meeting — which begins at 7:30 p.m. — at City Hall, 15670 NE 85th St. Residents can check out the preliminary budget here.
This is the second time the city has implemented the Budgeting by Priorities (BP) process, the first time being for the 2009-10 budget cycle. For the upcoming 2011-12 biennium, the city's budget will be reduced from $343.5 million to $305.4 million. With the $38.1 million cut, the mayor, city officials and citizens basically started from scratch to develop the new proposal, which was submitted to City Council on Oct. 5.
During this process, there was also some reorganizing within departments to shift certain areas to more appropriate priorities. As a result, deputy city administrator for the mayor's office Jane Christenson said individual priority budgets reflect not only reductions but funds that have been moved to or from other priorities.
Because Redmond's budget is broken down by priority — set by the community — instead of by department, the planning process is much more collaborative with department heads working together to come up with a solution rather than advocating for their respective departments. Fire Chief Tim Fuller, whose department mostly falls under the safety priority, said this in addition to involving the community in the process helped assure that public services were not compromised. In addition, this being the second time city officials have went through BP process has helped as well.
"It was less challenging," he said. "And I think the citizens are getting an awfully good product because of this approach."
The last three priorities City Council is scheduled to review are Infrastructure and Growth, Community Building and Safety.
Infrastructure and Growth
Infrastructure and growth encompasses all of the physical aspects that make the city run, such as the streets, sidewalks, sewer system and city building construction and maintenance as well as aspects that relate to the city's growth.
For the 2009-10 biennium, this priority's budget was about $127.09 million. For 2011-12, the proposed budget is set for about $119.6 million.
Of that $119.6 million, about $2.19 million will be designated for the water system infrastructure for fire protection. Another proposed $17.6 million will be designated for construction of storm water facilities, which will provide storm water conveyance and treatment to accommodate existing deficiencies and future growth, in the downtown Redmond area.
One of the reductions for this priority will concern the city's future plans. Bill Campbell, public works director for the City of Redmond, said this includes developing and implementing the city's Comprehensive Plan. The proposed $132,043 cut will extend the timeline for some of these procedures as well as reduce some of the excess work this department does.
"The cut there are things we'd probably like having," Campbell said. "Some of the 'nice-to-have' stuff, we might not be able to afford."
He said the basic work will still get done, though.
The city's transportation services will be reduced by $525,991. The proposed cuts include a reduction of three positions, which will be layoffs. This will mean some reorganizing in traffic safety information tracking and staff dedicated to acquiring grants as well as right sizing overhead costs within Campbell's department. He said they will be evaluating things as they go to figure out what they can do without and what is necessary.
"It's always hard to do more with less, but nowadays, that's just what you need to do," Campbell said.
The city's Geographic Information Systems (GIS) budget is proposed to be cut by $215,346. Campbell said GIS is a database that ties services to their physical locations. His department had been working on entering data for about eight years and now that the bulk of the work is done, they will be eliminating one position.
Redmond's infrastructure construction will be cut by $615,830. This reduction will come from a combination of reallocated funds and a cut in private development inspections due to the decreased demand, Campbell said.
"We don't foresee a lot of work done, at least in this upcoming biennium," he added.
The city will also be reducing its capacity for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) maintenance in city buildings, which will include eliminating a vacant position. Campbell said they will now rely mostly on contracted workers from private vendors. This change will save the city $362,777.
Water system maintenance services is proposed to receive a $375,434 reduction. Campbell said part of this includes eliminating a vacant position that had not been filled for a while. The city will also be right-sizing its water meter purchases, meaning having less in stock. Campbell said this move will align with the decline in development, resulting in the declining need for water meters, which are not cheap.
In 2009-10, the budget for community building was about $10.3 million. For the 2011-12 biennium, the proposed budget for this priority is about $15.86 million.
One area that will be facing a funding reduction is human services. However, Jane Christenson, deputy city administrator for the mayor's office, said despite the $30,000 cut, this was one area they did not want to dial back in terms of services to the public. In fact, Christenson said they are increasing hours to a part-time position, which results in an additional .18 FTE (full-time equivalent). The cuts, she said, will come from reducing funds for regional partnerships, which include the King County Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness, Eastside Human Service Forum and Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition.
"The reduction in funding is not coming at the expense of these partnerships," Christenson added.
Recreation services will be reduced by $490,088. This includes reorganizing in the department's workload, which will result in a layoff, reduced operating hours at Idylwood Park and reduced hours at the Redmond Senior Center during low periods. The Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center will also be closed Saturday mornings.
The city's communication department will also see a layoff with the proposed budget. The 1.0 FTE reduction will come in the graphics area, which is responsible for the graphics on Redmond's printed materials as well as on the web. This will save the city $167,668.
Neighborhood planning will also receive less funding. This area addresses short-term needs, long-term issues as well as opportunities for change and features of change for Redmond neighborhoods. Much of the $66,487 reduction will be due to extending neighborhood planning cycles and plan developments. Christenson said they will look at grants and other funding to keep the staffing levels where they are now.
A downtown park also falls under the community building priority, but Christenson said the funding for the acquisition and future development of this project — in the amount of $10 million — comes from the city's capital funds.
"Capital refers to projects and things that we build, whether they be roads or parks or infrastructure," she explained. "Operating is usually the people and services that provide or do the many things that the city does, (such as) police, fire, public works, planning."
Christenson added that most offers for the six priorities fall under the city's operating budget.
In 2009-10, the safety priority's budget was about $72.1 million. The upcoming budget proposes $84.4 million be designated to safety.
Despite the increase in funding, this priority will see reductions in a number of areas.
While preparing their portion of the budget, Police Chief Ron Gibson and Fire Chief Tim Fuller looked at the levels of service they were providing for the public and based their decisions on how much they would impact these services. Fuller said they wanted to make sure to have as little an impact as possible since their departments work more closely with the public than others. He and Gibson also looked to find where they can be more efficient in their respective departments.
One area that will see a significant cut is public safety overtime. By monitoring and managing overtime-related costs, the city will save $1.15 million. Gibson said a lot of the overtime in the past was due to being understaffed, which led to many employees working extra hours. Now that they are fully staffed, Gibson said the need to work overtime and pay employees overtime salaries is pretty much eliminated.
Fuller said this will also apply to the fire department.
The fire department is also reducing its administrative staff by one position, saving the city $223,005. Fuller said the eliminated position will come as a result of an employee who will be retiring and whose position will not be filled.
All layoffs and eliminated positions include employee salary, benefits and reserves the city sets aside for salary increases. Fuller added that the dollar figures are also for two years.
"People need to be reminded that it's a biennial budget," he said.
Fire prevention staffing will also be reorganized and result in a layoff — the fire marshal position, which will save $332,920. Fuller said this won't negatively affect the level of service they will be able to provide, but will help the department be less "top heavy" as well as clarify duties and responsibilities for remaining positions.
"The intent of the reorganizing is to create a less complex chain-of-command structure," he said.
Emergency management will also be eliminating one position, which will be a layoff. This division is responsible for the city's preparedness for disasters. Fuller said the eliminated position will be a managerial position that consisted mostly of administrative work. The duties of this position will be distributed throughout the Redmond's various departments, he added. This layoff will save the city $255,912.
The city will also be reducing its building inspection services by one position to align with the decline in development, saving $791,753.
The police department's criminal records division will be eliminating one position and closing an hour earlier, at 5 p.m. The office will still open at 8 a.m. Gibson said the hour change will only apply to this area of the police department.
"People can always come in, in case of an emergency," he said.
Finally, the city's prosecutor's office staff will be reduced by .50 FTE, which was a layoff as well. This will mean less time to prepare and present cases as well as a reduced availability for legislative updates and training for law enforcement personnel.Contact Redmond Reporter Reporter Samantha Pak at email@example.com or 425-867-0353, ext. 5052.