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City budget has no layoffs but reduced hours

The preliminary 2009 city budget includes no capital projects and no employee layoffs in exchange for a reduced work week for one-third of city employees and reduced access for the public, the city council was told Monday morning as next year's income and spending plan was introduced.

"It was a tough budget for a host of reasons," said interim city manager Robert Spinks.

The budget includes the council's broad policy directives, a

$1 million ending fund balance and money to study potential impact fees, he said.

"The key achievement of this budget is avoiding any layoffs of city employees," Spinks said.

Public hearings on the city's property tax levy and 2009 budget are scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 10 and Nov. 24 at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St. A third public hearing on fees and charges is set for 6 p.m. Dec. 8.

The city's $7.56 million general fund, down from $8.1 million in 2008, includes virtually everything associated with city government (except utilities) including the city manager and council, city attorney, police, planning and public works, building inspections and parks.

The remainder of the $24 million 2009 preliminary budget includes special revenue funds such as streets, hotel/motel tax and criminal justice, capital funds, water and sewer and trust funds.

The city will have the equivalent of 78.25 full-time employees in 2009, down from 79.15 full-time positions in 2008.

An open maintenance worker position will remain unfilled in 2009 and the police department has lost 2.5 positions, more than any other department.

Spinks said this budget includes "significant" belt-tightening, more than previous budgets.

One-third of the city's employees will work a 38-hour week, he said.

Spinks said he is meeting with Teamsters Union representatives to negotiate the reduced work week. The union has said any reductions should be shared by management, so about one-third of city employees are affected, he said.

In his budget message, Spinks wrote, "This reduction in hours is regarded as a one-year bridge that will be evaluated throughout the budget year with the council and union representatives."

Mayor Laura Dubois asked how much locking the doors and turning off the phones earlier in the day was expected to save.

Administrative services director Karen Goschen said about $86,000.

Dubois also said any future vacancies should be reviewed during the year and then in June they should look at the senior planner position again.

Spinks said the budget also includes no capital purchases and delaying the senior planner position until 2010 instead of July 2009.

Goschen said the capital facilities fund will get no revenue this year because that money is needed for the general fund and to pay for impact fee studies.

"It is the hardest hit area," she said.

If the current economic conditions continue in future years, the city will have to reduce services according to the council's priorities, Goschen said.

"There's nowhere left to cut," she said.

Goschen said the 38-hour work week would be achieved by such measures as reducing lane striping and plant watering in the public works department and closing the doors of city offices one hour before the end of the work day to prevent interruptions.

City staff has been accessible but now questions won't necessarily get an immediate response, she said.

Then a discussion ensued regarding about $54,000 in nondepartmental expenditures including $6,000 for Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce's economic development efforts, $18,000 for the Clallam County Economic Development Council and $30,000 for the Boys & Girls Club from the city's criminal justice fund.

Spinks said any extra money for agency requests such as these must come from either the city hall fund, $1 million ending fund balance or layoffs.

City Councilor Walt Schubert said, "I don't usually believe in social programs, but I believe in the Boys & Girls Club."

But City Councilor Erik Erichsen said, "I don't agree. There's many other programs through churches or charitable organizations."

The city's funding comes from charges to its citizens and the city owes them services in return, Erichsen said.

"We're not in the social service business. If people wish to provide funding to those programs, they are free to do so. There's plenty of other places for them to go," he said.

"I don't believe you have tightened enough," Erichsen said.

"There is no other program that is open evenings, day in and day out, for the teens. Nothing," Schubert said.

Last year's preliminary budget had nothing for the Boys & Girls Club until the Keeler Park deal fell through and the city was obligated to $200,000 for three years, Dubois said.

Maybe if that funding can be stretched out they can do a budget amendment later in the year, Dubois said.

Goschen proposed using "Fund 198," a contingency fund with $25,000, could be used for those agency funding requests.

The purchase of the Keeler family property - 45 acres of undeveloped land on U.S. Highway 101, just east of Simdars Road - also arose during the discussion.

Dubois said if the city can finance the Keeler property, then they can look at a budget amendment for the Boys & Girls Club.

Goschen said she would bring back more information later and this would count against the city's bonded indebtedness.

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