In what seems like a scene from the movie, Groundhog Day, once again, the City of Kirkland has cut service levels on many popular programs in preparing a balanced budget for 2001-2012. As recent past experience suggests, it is quite possible the City Council will need to address the budget within a few short months due to unsuspected economic factors. Cutting spending is not what the folks at City Hall like to do - they are there to provide services to the public, not cut them - but without additional revenue (read: higher taxes), cuts in services are inevitable. The costs of labor, benefits and materials keep rising.
In November, the electorate said NO to higher taxes when they voted to cut taxes from Olympia and rejected a state income tax initiative. If anyone thinks the mood in Kirkland is different and that Kirklanders are open to higher taxes, perhaps they should recall the failure of the Kirkland YES campaign in 2009 which promoted raising Kirkland utility taxes by 1.5 percent. Tax increases were rejected by the voters in the last two elections cycles.
When the electorate says NO to higher taxes, there is only one solution for government: reduce spending.
And that is what is happening. Budget cuts are often painful and never easy, but they are necessary for the city to remain financially healthy.
As a reminder of the service level cuts Kirkland has had to date, below is a partial list of service cuts over the years.
Service Reductions for the City of Kirkland
Public Safety Services
Closed Fire Station 24 during daytime hours (manned in evening by volunteers).
Eliminated one Police Sergeant position resulting in reduction of community services functions.
Dissolved ProActive Policing Unit for 2010 resulting in significant reduction in targeted crime investigations.
Imposed an annual “cap” on total firefighter overtime expenses.
Eliminate Police ProActive Unit resulting in significant reduction in targeted crime investigations. (City Council approved recommendation to set aside liquor profits until after legislative session. If funds are not needed to fund State or County unfunded mandates, funds would be considered for partial restoration of Police ProAct unit.)
Eliminate Corrections officer position. Transfer some functions such as booking and transport to police officers which will make them unavailable for calls for service.
Eliminate remaining Community Education and Information Specialist position (Fire Department)
Institute “rolling brown outs” of Fire Stations resulting in taking a unit out of service when fire staffing falls below minimum levels. This will increase response times. (City Council approved use of contingency reserve to backfill overtime until EMS transport fee implementation [planned 3/1/11] resulting in no rolling brown outs.)
Parks, Recreation & Community Services
Eliminated or reduced special events: Eliminated Outdoor Movie at Juanita Beach Park, Polar Bear Plunge, Easter Egg Hunt and reduced the number of summer concert performances from 21 to 14.
Eliminated watering of lawns in non- waterfront parks.
Reduced seasonal parks maintenance staff by approximately 30% resulting in lower maintenance levels in non-waterfront parks.
Reduced landscaping services in City parks and the Kirkland Cemetery.
Reduced lifeguard hours at City beaches by 2 hours per day (from 11am - 7pm to 1 - 7 pm).
Eliminated City funding for staff support of the Juanita Bay Ranger Volunteer Program.
Reduced staff support for youth and senior programs and special events coordination.
Eliminated garbage receptacles and pick-up at the following neighborhood parks: Brookhaven, Forbes Creek, Highlands, Phyllis Needy Houghton, South Juanita, Mark Twain, South Rose Hill, Rose Hill Meadows, North Kirkland Community Center playground, Spinney Homestead, Terrace, Tot Lot, Van Aalst, Woodlands, Cedar View and Watershed.
Eliminated portable toilets at the following parks: Juanita Bay, Juanita Beach, Waverly Beach, Marsh Park, Tot Lot, North Kirkland Community Center playground, Terrace, Spinney Homestead, and Woodlands.
Closed restrooms (year-round) at the following neighborhood parks: North Kirkland Community Center playground, Phyllis Needy Houghton, and South Rose Hill Parks.
Eliminated Mutt Mitts in all parks unless subsidized through donations or grants. Further reduced maintenance in parks and athletic fields (weeding, irrigation, planting) Further reduced lifeguard hours:
- Waverly Beach , Monday – Friday 1pm - 5pm, Saturday & Sunday 2pm – 6pm
- Houghton Beach, Monday – Sunday 1pm – 6pm
Reduced parks capital project support.
Eliminate Human Services Manager position, resulting in:
- Reduced staff support for Senior Council.
- Inability to continue to be represented in several regional initiatives including Committee to End Homelessness, King County Human Services Alliance, King County committees for Mental Illness/Drug Dependency and Veterans/Human Services allocations.
- Reduced Youth Council support and projects.
Consolidate Senior Programs van driver service with Northshore Senior Center program.
- Current riders will notice no difference.
- New riders beginning January 1, 2011 will have to be eligible for Metro’s Access transportation program in order to request service.
Eliminate remaining seasonal parks maintenance hours.
- Reduce frequency of garbage removal from community parks and waterfront parks between 5:00 pm and close.
- Reduce frequency in servicing restrooms at same parks.
- Reduce service level of ball field maintenance and landscape maintenance throughout the parks system.
Summary: The City workforce was reduced by the equivalent of 36 full-time employees (FTEs).
Summary: With the failure of the voted private utility tax increase in the November 3, 2009 election, the equivalent of an additional 12 full-time positions will be eliminated by January 1, 2010.
In addition, 4 full-time positions (3 in the Police Department and 1 in the Public Works Department) will be left vacant in 2010.
Most City staff will forego cost of living increases in 2010. In addition, wage decreases were requested resulting in salary reductions, lay-offs, and furloughs. Two units and management have agreed to furlough days which will result in the closure of City Hall and possibly other city facilities for up to 7 days in 2010.
Summary: In total, 16.13 FTEs are reduced or eliminated, impacting the service levels in the existing City. Annexation provides the opportunity to keep some of the skilled individuals that can fill positions needed to serve the annexation area. 11.65 of the 16.13 FTEs are proposed to move to annexation or other positions as they become available.
In addition to regular full time employee reductions there will be a reduction or elimination of 3,350 seasonal hours, 240 Probation On-Call hours, 300 Human Resources On-Call hours and 1,664 Court intern hours, roughly equivalent to 3.0 FTEs.