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Snohomish cuts police dog unit, unfilled job

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By Alejandro Dominguez
Herald Writer
Published:
SNOHOMISH— The City Council has approved the 2011 budget leaving the city with one less police officer and no police dog program.
“I am very sad for the cuts, but I understand the reality,” Snohomish Police Chief John Turner said.
The budget continues a trend of austerity started in 2008. The city has seen a decrease in sales tax revenue in recent years, the main source of revenue for the general fund.
The general fund for 2011 will have $7.32 million in expenditures, a cut of almost $600,000 compared to the 2010 budget.
Revenue is projected at $7.19 million plus $548,139 from this year’s balance to balance the budget, approved unanimously at Tuesday’s meeting.
The general fund pays for city services such as police, parks and facilities.
The city will lose its two police dogs as of Jan. 1. A police position left vacant on Nov. 1 will be stay unfilled.
These are big losses for the city, but it could have been worse, Turner said.
“I didn’t want to lose the K-9 program,” he said, “but it was that or cut people.”
The dog program cost the city about $35,000 a year, including a salary premium for the dogs’ handlers, vet bills, food and vehicles, Turner said. The retired dogs will be kept by the handlers.
There are attempts to save the program with fundraisers and donations, but is not clear if the program can be saved. There is some interest in creating a police foundation so donations could be accepted, Turner said.
With the unfilled position eliminated, Snohomish will have 19 police officers.
Streets maintenance also will suffer a hit in 2011. There will be a reduction of street-sweeping by a third under the budget.
Street sweeping was funded by the street and stormwater fund. In 2011, the cost will be borne in part by other sources, including the general fund. The service used to be funded by the motor vehicle fuel tax, but over the past five years there hasn’t been enough money coming from that revenue source to maintain the streets, support services director Danny Weinberg said.
At the meeting, the council also voted 4-3 against a proposed 1 percent property tax increase. Council members voting in favor the increase were Karen Guzak, Tom Hamilton and Melody Clemans.
Staff already are looking for ways to save in 2012, City Manager Larry Bauman said.

Alejandro Dominguez: 425-339-3422; adominguez@heraldnet.com.
Story tags » RoadsSnohomishPolice

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