City budget, jobs cut, taxes raised and money moved

The proposed 2012 Bremerton city budget is explained within itself as being four things, balanced, conservative, living within the city's financial means and rebuilding the city's reserve fund.

The budget was prepared by city staff and last week presented to the City Council with remarks by Bremerton Mayor Patty Lent.

A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 16.

In her message on the budget, Lent said that the elimination of 26 city jobs was only part of the equation to balance the city's accounts and cutting $2.1 million from departmental budgets for a total planned expense of $35.7 million in 2012.

Along with departmental cuts, the budget also proposes a 1 percent increase on property tax (the maximum allowed by law) and a 5 percent increase in parking taxes, which together account for $260,000 – 10 percent of the total gap. The proposed budget also takes advantage of individual departmental budget reserves. The mayor explained that some departments will intentionally fund some of their operations with their own reserve.

In her budget, Lent called on the city council to move $324,000 from the Wastewater and Stormwater funds into the the city's Street Fund to "better provide resources for our street operations."

The accounts would end 2012 with a combined $8.1 million. It can be done for one year without a rate increase, Lent said.

The wastewater funds combined with the parking tax increase, would put $474,000 into the Street Fund.

After detailing revenue situation and expectations, Lent explained that 26 city employees would be let go if her budget were approved by the Council in early December. Down from a pre-recession high of 398 full-time employees.In 2010 the city shrank by 24 positions and dropped in size to 332.

"As with any organization, our people are our backbone," Lent said.

The exact savings from the layoffs remains unknown. Becky Hasart, director of financial services, said the exact dollar cost of individual positions varied based on the employee in that job because of variables such as seniority. A person whose job was eliminated could move into a lower job and displace the less-senior person below them and that could be a lower net savings, she said.

The budget as prepared, calls for three police and five fire department jobs to be culled from the rolls. Together the savings in budgeted public safety positions is estimated to be $250,800.

The 2012 budget seeks to cut the police departments Community Resources Program, the bomb unit, the K-9 Program and the scandal-ridden Explorer Program. It also moves $200,000 from the Police Special Projects Fund into the General Fund.

Also cut from the 2012 authorized city staff were six from streets, five city engineers, four Parks and Recreation jobs, three maintenance jobs, two mechanics and one in finance.






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