Mercer Island City Manager Jessi Bon noted that “we are an organization in transition” at the Sept. 22 City Council meeting.
Bon kicked off the budget process with a preview of the city’s new organizational structure. The proposed changes are part of the 2021-2022 Preliminary Biennial Budget — scheduled for publication on Oct. 1 — and reflect a new staffing structure that became necessary due to the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve had a very challenging year. Workforce reductions, we’ve had financial challenges,” she said. “Many services are still impacted by the pandemic. We’ve had to modify really everything we do. I’m approaching this budget fairly conservatively because there are still financial uncertainties as we look out to the next biennium.”
In planning for the next biennium, Bon is recommending to focus on the delivery of essential services, continuous process improvement and efficiency, and providing stability for the organization and the community. She also recommends that the city strengthen its capital projects team to focus on the city’s sewer system, water system, stormwater system, roads and parks.
Despite these challenges, Bon is optimistic about where things are headed.
“This year has presented us with many opportunities to grow, evolve and adapt,” she said. “While there is still a lot that is unknown, I’m looking forward to collaborating with the community, the City Council, and the staff on the future direction of the city of Mercer Island.”
Bon said that during a recent all-staff meeting, there was an abundance of comments put forth about how things have gone well during the pandemic. For example, the city is now allowing credit-card payments for permits of all sizes, and internally, staffers are now able to move documents with electronic signatures.
“There’s a lot of positivity in where were are at now and I’m encouraging you, I’m encouraging the staff team and I’m certainly going to lead us this way. Let’s embrace where we’re at and carry that positive momentum forward,” said Bon, adding that everyone on staff, along with volunteers, has something to contribute and can help shape the city.
The next budget meeting with the City Council is scheduled for Oct. 13. Budget discussions, including a public hearing, will continue through the end of November, with final budget adoption slated for Dec. 1.