Mayor proposes leaner budget for 2010

October 6, 2009

By Warren Kagarise

Fewer dollars would be set aside for the DownTown Issaquah Association, Friends of the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, Village Theatre and other organizations supported by city money under the 2010 budget unveiled by Mayor Ava Frisinger.

But the mayor spared social service organizations from cutbacks, citing the increased need for the programs amid the economic downturn.

Frisinger proposed a $29.8 million general fund budget for next year — a drop from the $32.3 million general fund budget approved by the council last December. Most of the savings stems from 27 employee vacancies. City officials laid off 15 employees last month and avoided filling vacant positions throughout 2009. In August, seven city employees opted for a severance package and stepped down. The city is down to 228 full-time employees after starting the year with 255.

The proposed budget contains no property tax or rate increases. The city will start the year with about $5.3 million available.

Frisinger said city crews would do less mowing, road restriping, street sweeping and upkeep of city buildings to save money.

The mayor presented the spending plan to City Council members Oct. 5. Frisinger worked with city department leaders to formulate the budget. Weeks of hearings and deliberations follow the annual budget presentation. The council will adopt a budget by late December.

Frisinger recommended a 5 percent cut in funds for FISH and other organizations supported by city dollars.

FISH Executive Director Gestin Suttle said her organization would make a case for the requested $25,000. She said the volunteer group provides a valuable community resource for less than it would cost if the city operated its own hatchery program. Regardless, she said FISH would be grateful for any city money.

“We understand everyone is going through a really tough budget situation,” Suttle said.

DownTown Issaquah Association Executive Director Greg Spranger said his organization would turn to businesses to help make up shortfalls related to less city funding. The downtown group uses city money to help put on ArtWalk and Music on the Streets live performances.

“We have such great participation from our businesses,” Spranger said.

The layoffs and cuts in nonessential spending came after officials were forced to cut spending mid-year due to declining sales tax revenue and building permit fees. If a mid-year financial forecast showed similar declines in 2010, the mayor said further cuts would be considered.

“We probably would have to look at more layoffs,” Frisinger said.

Officials considered employee furloughs as well, but the idea was dropped after city leaders realized a furlough program could be problematic.

“We could continue to function, but things would be much slower,” Frisinger said.

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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