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Kent City Council adopts 2012 budget; 10 employees to lose jobs

The Kent City Council voted 4-2 Tuesday night to adopt the 2012 budget that includes the layoffs of 10 employees in January because of declining revenues.

The council voted to approve a budget that includes $160.3 million in revenue and $157.5 million in expenditures, according to a city media release. The city’s general fund, which covers daily operations including payroll, projects $60.9 million in revenue and $60.8 million in expenditures. The budget includes the 10 layoffs.

Council members Jamie Perry, Debbie Raplee, Deborah Ranniger and Dennis Higgins voted to adopt the budget. Elizabeth Albertson and Les Thomas voted against it. Ron Harmon missed the meeting because of an excused absence.

Kent Mayor Suzette Cooke announced the layoffs in a Dec. 7 media release. Two employees also will be moved to open positions in other departments and three employees will have hours reduced.

“Besides these 10 employees, an additional 20 vacant positions are also being eliminated.” Cooke said. “These reductions, plus additional new non-personnel cuts, are expected to save the city approximately $640,000.”

With the exception of Employee Services, the city’s human resources function, staff reductions occurred in every department, including police and the mayor’s office.

“This unprecedented recession continues to strain our ability to provide the quality of services our residents expect," Cooke said. "I wish to thank all city employees for their commitment and expertise. We are weathering these difficult times as well as we are, thanks to the hard work and dedication of each and every employee."

Department directors notified the 10 employees they will be laid off effective Jan. 12, Cooke said.

This round of personnel reductions is in addition to the elimination of 90 positions since the recession began. Other steps taken by city officials to align expenditures with declining revenues have included delaying or canceling dozens of capital projects and reducing or eliminating funding for various programs and contract agencies.

“Unfortunately, these latest cuts are unlikely to be enough in light of proposed reductions to state-shared revenues as the Legislature attempts to deal with the state’s budget challenges," Cooke said. "We’ll know more as the 2012 session gets underway."

Perry also expects more cuts to be needed.

"We know we have a long road ahead as we anticipate further cuts from the state Legislature," Perry said in a media release. "However, we will remain steadfast in our commitment to preserving, to the best of our ability, the services Kent residents expect."

Highlights of the City Council’s budget actions:

Top priorities maintained:

• Law Enforcement: No reductions in the number of sworn officers.

• Human Services: Maintains 2011 funding levels for human services.

• Infrastructure: Preserve the city’s infrastructure assets, including utilities (water, sewer and drainage), streets, parks, facilities and technology.

• Economic Development: Focus on increasing economic development opportunities that provide jobs for Kent residents.

Cost increases and required/contracted expenditures:

• $500,000 towards repayment of a 2002 loan from the water fund related to land acquisition for Kent Station.

• $96,000 increase in animal control services provided by Regional Animal Services of King County, for a total cost of nearly $387,000 for 2012. The city-county contract will end Dec. 31, 2010.

• $110,000 increase for election services and $44,573 increase in voter registration services provided by King County.

• $172,000 new expense for custodial, maintenance and security screening costs for the newly acquired Aukeen Court/Municipal Court building.

• $572,000 in utility cost increases for city-owned facilities and parks (i.e. electricity, water, sewer, garbage, etc.), as well as neighborhood street lighting previously covered by Homeowners Associations.

• $343,000 increase for state-mandated pension costs.

• $373,000 increase for worker’s compensation costs, largely due to remaining fire department claims. The city is still responsible for these outstanding claims, because they occurred prior to the formation of the Regional Fire Authority.

• $247,857 increase in services provided by Valley Communications, for a total cost of $2.36 million for 2012.

• $40,000 to provide cultural competency training to all employees.

Cost savings/fee increases:

• Eliminate 35.5 positions, including 23.5 vacant positions for a savings of $2.6 million.

• Restructure fees for permitting and development services to bring in $400,000.

• Apply a technology fee to permitting, parks and utility billing transactions to maintain technology systems for $240,000 in revenue.

• Increase business license fees - revenue of $100,000.

• Assess an additional 4 percent internal utility tax to cover fire hydrant maintenance and street lighting costs for revenue of $2.09 million.

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