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Council still grappling with budget

POULSBO — The Poulsbo City Council is debating whether to dip into the reserve stabilization fund to balance the 2012 budget, or take other measures such as employee furloughs.

The budget, which was cut to within $105,063 of being balanced when the council agreed with the mayor and finance committee’s recommended cuts at Wednesday’s meeting, now sits at $195,063 when year-to-year program adjustments were made.

Those adjustments, called baseline adjustments, maintain the operation of programs previously authorized in earlier budgets. These include auditing and legal services, prisoner care and monitoring, and building maintenance, although some of these costs were “absorbed” in other places than the general fund in the budget, according to Mayor Becky Erickson’s recommendations.

The council also had to finalize the remaining program requests. BKAT, which broadcasts the council meetings over public access channels, retained its $19,900 budget to maintain the current level of service. Urban Forestry and the Historic Downtown Poulsbo Association both came to an agreement with the city to cut, but not eliminate, their funds from the budget.

Executive Director Bob Middlebrook of Sound Works, a no-fee job placement center in Poulsbo, also testified in front of the council to keep his agency’s $5,000 funding in the budget. Middlebrook said he appreciates the council’s main contribution of providing office space rent-free, at 19131 8th Ave., but the $5,000 goes a long way in office supplies, bus passes and utilities. The council decided to allocate $2,500 in the next year.

Councilman Jeff Bauman said the council has three options to deal with its nearly $200,000 budget gap: staff furloughs, more “deep cuts” to departments and programs, or using revenue stabilization funding. Most council members agreed they would rather not use the reserve funds, as much of their estimations are “conservative.”

For example, the budget includes $12,000 in managerial pay adjustments, but the council will first negotiate with human resources before any adjustment is approved. Erickson said in a previous interview with the Herald the proposed increases are based on an internal salary review; she looked at what the city pays its 15 non-union employees compared to those in seven comparable cities and found Poulsbo positions paid lower salaries.“Our staff is our largest cost but our biggest asset,” she said.

Finance Director Debbie Booher also said the finance department made “conservative” estimates of incoming sales tax and other revenue. She added the council did not dip into all the reserve funding in 2011, and the same could happen next year.

The council also began discussion of goals, both for the year and long-term. Significant progress was made on some goals carried over from last year, such as the goal to add recreation facilities that includes a city/regional trail plan. The council believes other goals were accomplished, such as establishing a community vision for downtown and other town centers. The council added a few new goals, still up for discussion, including establishing a broadband utility, developing a neighborhood street maintenance program, and downtown parking improvements.

The council will continue to discuss goals at its next meeting, Dec. 7. Adoption of the budget is planned for mid-December.

Bauman’s last meeting 
Wednesday was Bauman’s last meeting as a council  member. Because he was appointed to the council, his term ends when another is elected to the position. Gary Nystul, a former Kalispell, Mont. councilman who is Bremerton’s city auditor, will take office as councilman in December.

Bauman was hired as Poulsbo’s public works director in 2006 and appointed to the City Council in January 2010 to succeed Erickson, who was elected mayor.

The mayor and council said they were sad to see him go, but expressed their gratitude for his service.

“I’m still alive and kicking,” Bauman said. “I look forward to staying involved.”

Bauman will continue to volunteer with the Marine Science Center and a hospice program.

 

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