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City of Poulsbo targets nearly $1 million in staff cuts

POULSBO — City leaders may eliminate 11 staff positions to close a funding gap projected for 2011.

The move would save the city $838,000, said city Finance Director Debbie Booher.

Roughly $275,000 will still be needed to balance the general fund, but “it gets us much closer,” Booher said.

An executive assistant to the mayor, three judicial specialists, several office clerks and one police officer are among the 10.81 full-time equivalent positions expected to be eliminated. The K-9 patrol and School Resource Officer programs have also been cut from the police department.

Staffing changes will be finalized during the city’s budget balancing work this fall.

Ten of the positions will be eliminated through a Voluntary Separation Agreement, in which employees volunteered to leave their jobs in exchange for an increased severance package and money for one year of healthcare costs.

There will only be one involuntary layoff, though many of those who applied for the Voluntary Separation Program were told before applying that their jobs would likely be eliminated in the future.

“Morale has already really been hurt by this,” said Human Resources Manager Deanna Kingery. “Some people are wondering whether they should put in for it or not.”

Employees have until Sept. 1 to apply for the Voluntary Separation Program, but they will be deemed ineligible if too many cuts have already been made. Those approved can continue working through the end of 2010.

The involuntary layoff, an officer with the police department, will occur by Oct. 15.

Eighty staff positions will remain after the proposed cuts.

The proposed eliminations affect every department, and no further layoffs are expected, said Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson.

“There should not be any more staffing changes than this,” she said.

A portion of property taxes usually designated for street maintenance will also be shuffled into the general fund to help close the gap. The city made a similar transfer last year. Councilman Ed Stern said the city will still be able to afford the major road projects it has planned, but because of the transfer it likely won’t do any side street maintenance this year.

Councilwoman Linda Berry-Maraist said the city has built a reputation of friendly service and these cuts will be noticed by citizens.

“You do not cut 12 pecent of staff without everyone in the city noticing,” she said.

Several city employees attended the council meeting Wednesday night. Court Clerk Megan Campbell Visk said she understood some city services would become automated, but worried about the reduction of an officer from the police force.

“I need to be reassured, living up the hill with my child, that when I call a police officer for any reason, somebody responds and responds quickly,” she said.

Councilman Dale Rudolph voiced concern that the amount of cuts to the Planning Department could hinder implementation of the city’s newly updated Comprehensive Plan.

Several council members said they wouldn’t support further cuts.

“I’m grateful people stepped up to the Voluntary Separation Program but I’m sorry that it even had to be offered,” Councilwoman Connie Lord said.

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