Everett looks at restructuring city government

EVERETT — Streamlining police, fire and transit services — they’re expected to be among the trickiest aspects of balancing the city budget in years to come.

Those aren’t the only thorny topics city leaders want to address at today’s 6:30 p.m. City Council budget discussion.

Also on the agenda: one proposal to merge the Everett Public Library with the regional Sno-Isle Libraries system and another to form a new taxing district to pay for city park operations.

Previous budget topics this spring have included service cutbacks, more fees and higher taxes.

“The stuff we’re talking about this week — the mayor has described it as a phase II,” said Meghan Pembroke, Mayor Ray Stephanson’s spokeswoman. “For some of them, we’d be looking to involve an outside consultant.”

Stephanson has said Everett needs to restructure operations to bridge an anticipated $13 million gap in next year’s finances. Without action, that shortfall would widen to $21 million by 2018.

Police and fire services account for nearly half of the city’s 2014 budget of $113 million. Most of that money goes toward salaries and benefits that must be negotiated with unions.

This year’s police budget of $31.8 million pays for 201 uniformed employees and 43 civilians. The number of uniformed police employees has been steady over the past five years, though the number of civilian positions has dropped by four.

One potential cost-cutting measure could be shifting more responsibility to lower-paid civilian police employees for tasks that don’t need to be performed by a commissioned officer.

This year’s fire department budget totals $20.4 million. It pays for 143 positions, a number that has remained unchanged during the past five years.

Everett Transit includes bus and para-transit service as well as operating Everett Station. For this year, it commands a $22.6 million budget and employs about 150 people. Run as an enterprise fund, rather than through the city’s main operating budget, the transit division is supported mainly through a voter-approved .6 percent sales tax, user fees and grants.

Tonight’s meeting is to take place in council chambers, 3002 Wetmore Ave.

The city has scheduled two additional meetings outside of council chambers in the coming weeks to collect people’s feedback on the budget.

Stephanson hopes to make formal budget recommendations to the City Council by the end of May.

Merging with the regional library system or creating a new taxing district to pay for parks would require voter approval.

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

Meetings scheduled

Meetings about restructuring Everett city government:

Tonight, 6:30, Everett City Council chambers, 3002 Wetmore Ave.

May 8: 5:30 to 8 p.m., Evergreen Middle School cafeteria, 7621 Beverly Lane.

May 13: 5:30 to 8 p.m., Wilderness Auditorium, Jackson Conference Center, Everett Community College, 2000 Tower St.

May 21, 6:30 p.m., summary discussion in council chambers

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