Council approves city budget

December 9, 2008

By Jim Feehan

The City Council has approved a $38.4 million budget operating and capital for 2009. Proponents said the budget was fiscally prudent; opponents said the budget

 could have been trimmed more and the city should not have dipped into its reserve fund.

The Dec. 2 vote was 4-3. Mayor Ben Varon, Deputy Mayor Dan Hubbell, Sonny Putter and Jean Garber voted yes. Steve Buri, Lisa Jensen and Carol Simpson voted no.

A building department employee was laid off and an unfilled position for deputy city clerk will go unfilled.

On Nov. 25, the council approved cutting the city subsidy for community events in half, to $30,000. It also approved combining two elections into one, saving $12,000. When cities or other taxing districts hold an election, King County Elections charges them.

A downturn in development-related revenue resulted in a shortfall for the city.

Permits for new houses and other land-use applications have declined, as well as sales-tax revenue from new-home construction and sales. The operating budget relies on development-related income, property tax and sales tax revenue.

The council also agreed to review salary and compensation in the first few months of 2009.

Putter said not everyone gets the budget they want.

“I can live with this budget,” he said.

“We’ve reduced the budget by 10 to 11 percent. Try doing that in your personal budget,“ Hubbell said. “We’re going to find ways to save money. We’ve done a tremendous job at reeling it in from where we were six months ago.”

Simpson said city officials could have found more efficiencies. She said dipping into the reserve fund is not prudent, given the downturn in the economy.

“We also need more accountability and transparency about how we’re spending money,“ she said.

Former City Councilman Gordon Bisset said he was disappointed. He agreed that dipping into the reserve fund during a recession was not a sound move.

“In these times, it’s hard to believe you’re having an 8 percent salary increase. This is just unbelievable,“ he said.

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