The Mercer Island City Council reviewed the latest draft overview of different strategies for an eventual fiscal sustainability plan to help balance the city budget in the long-term.
Management Partners, a professional management consulting firm specializing in helping local government leaders improve operations, presented about 22 strategies at the April 16 general meeting that the city could potentially implement to avoid a multi-million dollar deficit.
“The council asked for staff to evaluate the strategies that have been suggested by the outside consultant,” city manager Julie Underwood said. “There are a number of expenditure reduction strategies as well as service delivery model changes.”
The firm pointed out that if the council were to take no action, which is not being considered as an option, the city would see an annual deficit of $4.8 million by fiscal year 2024, the general fund would be depleted by Dec. 31, 2023, and the city would likely default on its pension and debt obligations and would then have to consider bankruptcy protection.
The review is a preliminary step toward balancing the city’s budget which has been a struggle since Proposition 1 failed to pass last November. The entire presentation is available online at the city’s website.
City workers are now reviewing the numerous options presented and deciding which are feasible for the city to implement. The tentative timeline is for Underwood to come back to the council in June with the possible options they’ve found.
The city also plans to seek public opinion throughout the planning process. Initially, the city plans to focus on online feedback for a potential fiscal sustainability plan and eventually move to public hearings next fall.
“The summer months tend to be pretty busy for a lot of families,” Underwood said. “We will be doing more of an online engagement over the summer and then starting this fall really kick up the face-to-face engagement.”
Underwood added the goal will be to gauge what services residents can live without and how the city can do the most it can for as many residents it can given the budget it has.
The city employed Management Partners last year as a third-party consultant to review financial projections by the finance department. The firm also presented pathways to grow the city’s contingency fund, or “Rainy Day Fund,” which the city hopes to equal the good practices standard, a minimum of two-months of the annual general fund budget.
The city council will discuss the overview and implementation plan at its May 21 meeting and June 21 planning session.
“My biggest ask of the community is to be engaged and involved in the services and the service level they want delivered to them,” Underwood said.