Belt-tightening continues in Everett mayor’s budget

EVERETT — Meager budgets have forced the city to eliminate nearly 25 full-time jobs since 2009.

That includes erasing nine vacant city positions in Everett, this year and next.

It’s part of the recession-era penny pinching that’s also forced the city to put off maintenance projects and pension contributions.

“These actions are not sustainable for the long term,” Mayor Ray Stephanson told the City Council last week.

For 2014, they mayor is proposing a $113.5 million budget that funds about 735 full-time jobs. That’s 1.3 percent more than the city spent in 2013.

The City Council has scheduled a public hearing on the mayor’s budget during its next regular meeting, at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

While next year’s cuts are fairly mild, Stephanson warned that more difficult decisions lie ahead. The mayor has asked his department directors to draft ideas during the coming months to balance city finances.

“I believe that the time has come for us to acknowledge that our revenues will not recover quickly enough to avoid taking more difficult measures to safeguard the city’s finances over the long term,” Stephanson said.

Overall, Everett has suffered less financially than many of the region’s other local governments. For starters, none of the recent staffing cuts involved public safety positions.

Everett also has managed to complete key infrastructure projects, with more on the horizon.

In September, crews finished widening 112th Street SE between I-5 and the Bothell-Everett Highway. In May, the city opened a new municipal court building downtown.

Starting next spring, the city plans to start replacing the 101-year-old Broadway Bridge. Also planned in 2014 are projects to install new playground equipment at Sen. Henry M. Jackson and Hannabrook parks.

The City Council is likely to recommend changes to Stephanson’s 2014 budget later this month. The council must schedule at least three readings of the revised budget before passing it. A final budget must be adopted by the end of the year.

In October, the City Council approved property tax increases similar to recent years.

A 1 percent increase in the regular levy will cost the owner of a property assessed at $270,000 an extra $7.83 in 2014 compared to 2013, the city estimated.

The owner of the same house will pay an estimated $10.14 more in taxes next year because the council restored the city’s EMS levy rate to 50 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Because assessed values are expected to rise an average of 8.1 percent next year, the EMS levy rate, without council action, would have fallen to about 46 cents per $1,000 of assessed value. Even with the increase, the city said the new levy amount remains below what homeowners were paying in 2011.

Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, nhaglund@heraldnet.com.

2014 Everett city budget

The City Council scheduled a hearing on Mayor Ray Stephanson’s proposed 2014 budget during the regular council meeting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The city must approve a new budget by the end of the year.

Stephanson’s 2014 plan calls for general spending of $113.5 million and 735 full-time positions.

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