Budget talks continue in wake of Prop 1 failure

Cuts are suggested for YFS, fire department, police department and parks department.

The Mercer Island City Council was set to discuss the city’s 2019-2020 budget on Nov. 20, and address the impacts from the failure of Proposition 1. The city also outlined the consequences in a press release sent Nov. 15.

Proposition 1, a levy lid lift that failed in the Nov. 6 General Election, would have generated sufficient funding to maintain current levels of service across a wide range of city programs, including police and emergency services, mental health counseling, safety net services, maintenance of parks, trails, playgrounds and ball fields and recreation services.

“With the failure of the levy lid lift measure, the city will need to make reductions, starting with programs that the city is not legally required to provide,” a city press release stated.

In the proposed 2019-2020 biennium budget, service reductions for the city’s Youth and Family Services Department include reducing a full-time administrative assistant position and a full-time geriatric specialist position to half time. In addition, there could be two full-time school-based mental health counselor positions eliminated. Currently, four counselors serve each of the four elementary schools.

For the Parks and Recreation Department, one full-time special events coordinator position will be eliminated, and other vacant positions will be left unfilled, reducing the number of community events, limiting maintenance and stewardship activities, and reducing Community Center hours of operations.

Other proposed cuts include the deputy fire chief position, and the police department will leave a full-time patrol officer position vacant.

The council is reviewing the proposed 2019-2020 budget including the reductions recommended by the city manager to balance the budget. More information about the depth and impact of proposed cuts can be gleaned from the budget message section of the proposed 2019-2020 budget.

The city still projects an estimated deficit of $3.7 million starting in 2021, which will result in further service reductions going forward.

According to the budget message, the city also is looking to develop a fiscal sustainability plan and hire outside consultants to review the city’s development services and fire departments, as well as its municipal court.

During the review on Nov. 20, after the Reporter’s print deadline, the council expected to give the city manager direction to finalize the budget for the next two years. Also on Nov. 20 agenda was adoption of the 2019 property tax ordinances and beautification fund ordinance, approval of the 2019 utility rate resolutions and approval of the DSG fee structure resolution.

The 2019-2020 proposed biennial budget totals $143.2 million in expenditures across all funds. The city’s proposed capital budget is $15.5 million in 2019 and $17.3 million in 2020, and the proposed budget for the general fund and Youth and Family Services fund totals $35.5 million in 2019 and $35.9 million in 2020. The city expects to end 2020 with $4.6 million in its contingency fund.

Adoption of the final budget is set for Dec. 4. See www.mercergov.org/budget for more.

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