Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series examining Redmond Mayor John Marchione’s 2011-12 Budget by Priorities proposal. The budget contains six priorities: Business Community, Responsible Government, Clean and Green, Infrastructure and Growth, Community Building and Safety. Part one will focus on the first three priorities: Business Community, Responsible Government and Clean and Green.
The Redmond City Council will be 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 the Nov. 16 council meeting — which begins at 7:30 p.m. — at City Hall, 15670 NE 85th St. Residents can check out the preliminary budget here.
After seven months of working with city departments as well as citizens, Marchione submitted his budget proposal to City Council on Oct. 5.
Going from $343.5 million for 2009-10 budget cycle to $305.4 million for 2011-12, the city is facing budget cuts of about $38.1 million. Continuing with the city’s Budgeting by Priorities (BP) process, which was first adopted for the 2009-10 budget, the mayor’s proposal is broken down by priority, set by the community.
One of the main challenges the mayor faced in preparing the budget was putting everything into economic context. The 2009-10 budget saw a 10 percent gap between revenue and expenditures and the proposed budget closes this gap.
“While economic times are tight, I am pleased to report that we have worked hard to manage our current budget within available resources,” Marchione said in a letter to the City Council. “Looking ahead to the fiscal year 11-12 budget, as your Mayor, I remain committed to delivering a budget which continues to focus on citizen service priorities in the most cost-effective and efficient manner possible.”
The first three priorities City Council is scheduled to review are Business Community, Responsible Government and Clean and Green.
Funding for the Business Community priority is proposed to increase from $10.3 million to $13.76 million.
Rob Odle, director of planning and community development for the City of Redmond, said one thing the council wanted to address was maintaining a sustainable economic future for the city. To do this, Odle said the city has teamed up with the Chamber of Commerce and private sector to form the Economic Development Alliance, which will focus on recruiting new businesses and retaining old businesses. The city is contributing $200,000 to the organization and the mayor will sit on the board of directors, Odle said. However, he added that the city will focus on the logistic side of things such as issuing permits.
One area the Business Community priority will see a reduction is in the Development Services Center (DSC). Comprised of the planning, public works and fire departments, this entity deals with development on private property. The DSC will see a staff reduction of about five employees, which will save the city $1.2 million. Odle said this will be a combination of layoffs and eliminating vacant positions. He said the reduction is due to the decline in revenue from permits applications, which went from $7 million in 2007 to $3.5 million in 2009.
“Just like everyone else, we’ve had a significant decline in development,” he said.
Odle does not believe this will affect their service level as they continue making improvements to their permit system.
One improvement is moving things online. This includes the city’s zoning code, which is currently a 1,000-plus paged binder. This will save $21,152. The new code will be available online, making it more accessible for city staff and citizens a like. Odle said the code will also be interactive.
“It’s going to be very user-friendly and 21st century,” he said. “It’s going to save a lot of time, literally, a lot of energy and a lot of trees.”
For 2011-12, the Responsible Government priority’s proposed budget went from $48.09 million during 2009-10 to $49.02 million.
Despite an increase of almost $1 million, the priority still faces a number of reductions. Finance Director Mike Bailey said many of these will come from improving efficiencies and reducing capacity in various areas.
Bailey’s department is trimming six positions — three of which are layoffs effective next year. The remaining positions are openings they will eliminate rather than fill. Although they will operate with a smaller staff, saving the city $733,079, Bailey said his department will be able to offer the same level of service.
“We do not believe any of the staff position reductions will result in lower service to the public,” he said.
Bailey’s department is also responsible for the city’s property and liability insurance and other risk-management programs. A $500,000 cut has been proposed after city officials reviewed the programs during the last year. Bailey said the city can provide the same level of insurance coverage with less “out-of-pocket” exposure. For example, the city’s deductible for losses will be reduced from $100,000 per occurrence to $25,000. He added that the city’s insurance premiums will also be lowered.
The city clerk’s office is also eliminating a part-time position. Bailey said this was another open position they will not fill. The eliminated position is included in the proposed $110,728 cut to the department.
“We believe we can provide the same level of service without this part-time position though our capacity for things like vacations or unexpected absences, illness for example, will be less,” Bailey said. “In the meantime our city clerk has added a volunteer program to staff the desk in City Hall.”
The city is also cutting its information services, which consists of the city’s technology services, by $439,959. The cut includes right-sizing the system-support services and reducing administrative staff.
In addition to these reductions, the Responsible Government priority budget will designate $200,000 to support renovations to the fuel islands for city vehicles at Fire Station 11 and the city’s Maintenance and Operations Center. About $7.9 million will be budgeted to fulfill the lease obligation for the City Hall building as well as maintain the building and parking garage.
The city also has money set aside in case of an emergency. Bailey said the citywide reserves is 8.5 percent of the budget (about one month’s expenses). For 2011-12, this amounts to about $26 million of the city’s proposed $305.4 million budget. Bailey said for the 2009-10 budget, city council added an economic contingency as a cushion in case city revenues are less than expected.
“In the current budget we have $3 million in economic contingency,” Bailey said. “The 2011-12 budget includes a $2 million economic contingency. We haven’t used any of it but could if the revenues continue to be below estimates by more than we expect.”
CLEAN AND GREEN
The Clean and Green priority faces the biggest cut of the six, going from $75.57 million for 2009-10 to $22.68 million for the upcoming 2011-12. In addition to the cuts, the proposed budget will include $1 million designated for the design and construction of a new park. Spiritbrook Park will be 1.9 acres with children’s play areas and a number of sports courts.
Parks and recreation director Craig Larsen said a fair amount of the reductions will come from holding off on major maintenance and rehabilitation projects for a few years.
“We believe we can go two years with some reduction,” he said.
An example of this would be the $265,509 reduction to park facility maintenance. Larsen said this would mean measures such as patching up a leak in a roof rather than replacing it and mending a hole in an old fence instead of replacing it. Operating this way is fine for a few years, but Larsen said these bigger projects can’t be put off for too long.
Redmond’s green spaces will also be receiving less maintenance. With $270,566 cut in this area, Larsen said a large part of this will be from a 50 percent reduction in the city’s flower pot program. Landscaping will now be focused more on higher traffic areas.
“I think people will notice the difference but it won’t be shocking,” Larsen said. “They’ll still see flowers.”
Other money-saving measures include a 10 percent reduction in trail maintenance and less lawn mowing at certain parks.
The parks and recreation department will also see a reduction of one employee, but Larsen said it has been due to reorganizing staff and formally shifting one employee to a project-based position working in Natural Resources. This along with reorganizing water conversation educational programs will save the city $487,735.
Although facing many budget cuts, Larsen is confident public service will not be too affected.
“I think (the cuts are) pretty measured,” he said. “We’re going to be very careful about things. It’s not our normal way of business, but it’s certainly tolerable.”