City Council cuts $300,000 in projects from mayor’s budget

November 19, 2013

By Peter Clark

Highlighted pieces of the mayor’s proposed budget faced a City Council chopping block before they reached a final public hearing.

A plan to remodel the Tibbett’s Creek Manor kitchen, funding for a city business marketing plan and a feasibility study for a city campus were all voted down in the Nov. 7 council work session.

After extended conversations, in which the phrase “financial sustainability” was repeatedly used, the council asked the city’s Finance Department to lop $300,000 off the draft budget. Finance Director Diane Marcotte said the council created the figure with the end of 2014 in mind.

“It was a combination of the ending fund balance and the local improvement district guarantee funds,” Marcotte said, pointing out how the council set the amount.

The council spotted a trend in the past few years of the city using leftover money to balance the budgets of departments that overspent. Council members deemed that unsustainable.

In its goal-setting retreat in May, the council established the business marketing plan and the campus feasibility study as 2014 goals.

Without clear understanding of how the city would pay for a new campus, the council was hesitant to proceed with the feasibility study.

“I’m concerned that we do studies and then we don’t implement those studies,” Councilman Joshua Schaer said. “I just sort of worry that it’s going to sit on a shelf for a while.”

Council members said they believed the city lacked a cohesive vision upon which to base a proposed marketing plan and thought its implementation premature.

“I’m not comfortable at this point that the city is really positioned to do this and to do this effectively,” Councilman Paul Winterstein said. “I’m not even sure what a marketing plan is, honestly.”

Voting on goals during the May retreat was far from unanimous. The elapsed time and the stark financial numbers caused council members to change their mind about previously adopted plans for the city.

As for the Tibbett’s Creek Manor plan, members delayed a conversation about whether the city should even keep the property, let alone spend money to remodel it.

Mayor Ava Frisinger also offered a presentation of other possible cuts the council could find in budget expenses, while pointing out the administration’s tightening over the past few years.

“There have been significant cuts in expenditure in the form of staff levels for that time frame,” Frisinger said of the past five years.

She listed reducing consultants, eliminating the contract with the Olympia lobbyist, managing legal counsel and delaying the filling of a senior planning position as possibilities to ease financial strain.

“These are not recommendations per se. These are things that could be done as options,” she said.

Council members considered those options before deciding on the above cuts, though they expressed interest in a continued discussion on the mayor’s suggestion.

Final consideration occurred during the Nov. 18 regular meeting and a decision was unavailable by press time.

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