Kailan Manandic / staff photo 
                                Mercer Island City Council continues to trim budgets in hopes of mitigating a budget deficit.

Kailan Manandic / staff photo Mercer Island City Council continues to trim budgets in hopes of mitigating a budget deficit.

City council to restore school counselors with MIYFS savings

The council declined a MIYFS funding offer in favor of using savings to restore the positions.

Updated at 11:15 a.m.

The Mercer Island City Council rejected the Mercer Island Youth and Family Services (MIYFS) and Mercer Island Schools Foundation’s offer to fund a school counselor position, instead using one-time savings from 2018 to restore both counselor positions through 2020.

The city council discussed and reviewed funding resources on Tuesday for MIYFS, which provides services for emergency family assistance, the local food-bank, thrift shop, schools mental health counseling, senior services and youth programs. With multiple, months-long vacancies within the MIYFS and increased thrift shop revenues, the non-profit saved $170,000 in the 2018 fiscal year, according to city staff at the April 30 meeting.

The city council decided to use the one-time budgetary savings to restore the two elementary school mental health counselors and fund a MIYFS administrative assistant through 2020.

The counselor positions were originally eliminated in the 2019-2020 biennial budget as part of ongoing city budget cuts to avoid future deficits after Proposition 1 failed to pass last year.

The MIYFS and Mercer Island Schools Foundation had offered to provide $87,000 in order to temporarily restore a single counselor position for the 2019-2020 school year. The city council said they were grateful for the offer, but declined the funding in favor of the budgetary savings presented by city staff.

The city’s general fund will no longer support the MIYFS fund with its average $309,000 annual contribution due to the projected structural budget deficit. This decision, made on April 2, has caused a reduction of services within the MIYFS as the department proposes options for reduction and potential revenue enhancements.

The city council reviewed alternative options at Tuesday’s meeting to fund the MIYFS through 2020. The budget adjustments can be viewed on the city’s website.

City staff detailed the MIYFS departmental history and background as a city service. Staff then presented proposed budget adjustments to account for an absence of the $200,000 to $465,000 that the general fund would typically contribute. City funding will officially be cut for the 2020 fiscal year.

The presented plan for 2019 through 2020 would generate a total of $311,947 in deficit spending reductions with revenue from community-based counseling fees, proposed school counseling fees, MIYFS Foundation increased base funding and cutting costs through eliminating an administrative coordinator position, while adding back a part-time administrative assistant position, and eliminating the pay-for-performance program in 2020.

The meeting was after press deadline. The full meeting video can be viewed at the city’s YouTube page (https://bit.ly/2WeqEam).

Additionally, the city recently announced that the Luther Burbank Administrative Building will have reduced hours as part of the MIYFS service reductions. The building hosts MIYFS staff along with Parks and Recreation staff at 2040 84th Ave. SE.

There will no longer be a full-time administrative staff member due to the budget cuts, and will now be open to the public between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Locals will have to make an appointment for any visits outside of the set hours.

“After reviewing public patronage and client requests for assistance these reduced hours were identified as an efficiency that would have minimal negative public impact,” the city noted in a press release.

According to a press release, the reduction will not effect hours worked by most staff, but create hours where the front door is locked and no reception will be offered.

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