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City Council approves budget, cuts 8.9 positions

The Mercer Island City Council approved the 2011-2012 budget last week, cutting 8.9 positions and approving the ambulance transport fee on a trial basis.

The budget of $46.2 million was a 5.4 percent decrease from the previous year. To bridge the budget gap, the Council approved the restructuring of transportation management, eliminating the fire marshal position and redistributing the duties, and eliminating the citizen survey in 2012.

The ambulance transport fee, which is projected to bring in over $260,000, will help cover the shortfall in 2011. The transportation of patients to local hospitals will begin in February 2011 on a one-year trial. Patients will be charged a fee similar to the one already used by the private ambulances that currently take patients.

The Council directed the fire department to collect data on the fee and report to the Council in early 2012.

One proposal that the Council did not approve for the new budget was increasing the city's share of property taxes by 1 percent.

Several programs that were facing possible cuts after the proposed budget will continue, such as Mostly Music in the Park, Adventure Playground and Shakespeare in the Park.

The Council also approved a two-year agreement with the school district, allowing the district to take over operations of Mary Wayte Pool. The district will hire Olympic Cascade Aquatics to operate the pool, while the city will provide the district with $100,000 for pool operations, with a $25,000 reserve for operating deficits and repairs.

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