Councilmembers on Monday collected more information about how to close the city's ongoing budget gap while maintaining a high level of service to the public. They also held a public hearing at the mid-point of the city's two-year budget cycle.
The council is expected to decide in the coming weeks on spending cuts and possible fee increases as part of mid-biennium budget update, which includes the 2011-2012 general fund budget, passed in December 2010.
Although the city has already moved to reduce contract costs, limit discretionary spending and implement a hiring freeze, Bellevue still faces a projected $6.5 million ongoing budget deficit in the general fund due to the sluggish economic rebound.
The council reviewed a lengthy list of spending cuts totaling $4.6 million, including the elimination of 17 full-time equivalent positions, six of which would involve layoffs, voluntary separations or voluntary retirements. The proposed reductions come on top of those made last year when the city reduced its workforce by 49 positions and cut $16 million from the budget.
Budget writers have again designed the cuts to minimize direct impacts to the public.
The two-year operating budget totals about $800 million, of which about $300 million is for the general fund and pays for a wide range of day-to-day city services, including salaries for most city employees. Several other pots of money, such as revenue for the Utilities Department, fall into different accounting categories, outside of the general fund. A separate seven-year capital projects budget totals approximately $304 million.
In addition to reductions, the council is considering whether to implement an emergency medical services fee for transporting "basic life support" patients to hospitals. The recommendation is for a transport fee of $600, plus $14 per mile, for patients with less serious ailments, comparable to other cities and fire departments in King County. The new fees would generate an estimated $1 million in additional revenue annually for the city's general fund, but councilmembers have raised several questions about the proposal and have expressed concern about possible impacts.
Also being considered are increases in fees charged by the city's Development Services Department, which has been hit hard by the recession. In response, 26 positions were eliminated last year and 15 more will be cut in 2012. Development Services depends primarily on user fees, not the general fund, to pay for its operations, and the fee increases would help pay for its core services. If approved, it would be the first fee adjustment since 2009.
Councilmembers are scheduled to take action at its meeting on Dec. 5 or Dec. 12, when they vote on several ordinances related to the budget, including a 2012 property tax amount, the Development Services fees, basic life support transport fees, and the mid-biennium budget.
council agenda materials Video links to city council meetings are available at Bellevue TV.
Feedback: Toni Rezab, Budget Manager, 425-452-7863 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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