City Council schedules vote on 2013 budget Nov. 21 EVERETT - The city will begin 2013 with a balanced budget and no layoffs.
The city was looking at a $10 million shortfall to begin 2013, which was fixed by holding off on making contributions to the police and fire pension funds, having departments cut $3 million this year to put toward 2013 and slowing down some infrastructure improvements.
The city also won’t be watering public lawns or building sidewalks as often as before cutbacks were implemented to balance the budget.
The pension delay saved $3.5 million. The city says it has enough to fund pensions through 2030.
The city is making its non-union management, appointed officers and elected officials contribute 10 percent toward their health insurance premiums to save $215,500.
The city also made a set of 2010 budget reductions permanent to manage future spending, and it is keeping a minimum of 25 positions vacant, up from 15 positions this year.
The city also will raise property taxes by 1 percent, as it normally does.
The city operates on a $112 million general fund to pay for day-to-day operations.
While the city is expecting a small revenue increase from 2012, the city is nearly $7.4 million off from 2008 revenues. Revenues have been mostly stagnant compared to pre-Recession expectations.
In last week’s annual budget message, Mayor Ray Stephanson emphasized the city has to remain fiscally sustainable.
“As the economy improves, we will refrain from expanding operations and use any upward trend in revenues to first build on contributions to capital funds and other reserves,” Stephanson said.
“While we do not anticipate a significant economic recovery in the near-term, I am confident that strong growth will eventually occur,” Stephanson said.
To recover, Stephanson said, city leaders must push for creating an educated workforce to ensure Boeing has engineers and skilled labor, he said. Stephanson worked to get Washington State University to open a four-year engineering degree program at Everett Community College.
The city intends to negotiate health insurance premiums into the contracts of union employees when each union is up for contract negotiations, Stephanson said previously.
“It changes the mindset of ‘Am I going to go to the doctor for every sniffle’,” Stephanson said at a neighborhood meeting in September.
As a ramification of the Great Recession, the city will face increasing deficits over the next few years. The city faces a $10.4 million shortfall for 2014, which grows to $14.6 million in 2016.
Councilman Paul Roberts said the city is being smart about its fiscal management. The city’s decision to pay capital projects with cash instead of bonds is keeping Everett’s AA-plus bond rating strong.
“Our bond rating is extremely strong because of it,” Roberts said.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for this week and next week’s council meetings.
This week, department heads will unveil their individual budget reports.
Next week, the council is scheduled to approve the budget after the final public hearing. The city must have a budget finalized by Dec. 31.
The City Council meets Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at Council Chambers, 3002 Wetmore Ave.
The public can send written comments on the budget through Wednesday, Nov. 21.
Mail comments to Everett City Hall, Attn: Deb Williams, 2930 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201.