By Noah Haglund Herald Writer
EVERETT — City leaders hope to scrimp through the year ahead without resorting to layoffs or compromising public safety.
To make that happen, they’ll need to increase the number of city jobs they’re keeping vacant.
Some desirable building projects, like expanding the south branch of the Everett Public Library, will have to wait a little longer as well.
“We’re doing all the things that businesses had to do and people are having to do at home: cut expenses, cut travel, all those kinds of things,” Mayor Ray Stephanson said during his monthly television update for October. “But we’re not anticipating any layoffs, which is really the good thing.”
Stephanson is scheduled to release more details when he rolls out his 2013 budget at the Nov. 7 City Council meeting.
The mayor expects to present a plan with $112 million in general services, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said. That’s a slight increase over the $110 million general budget the city passed for 2012. Nearly half goes toward fire and police services.
Recent city budgets have included a property tax bump costing the average homeowner about $2 more per year.
After Stephanson releases a budget, the council reviews it and makes changes. The public has a chance to comment at hearings Nov. 14 and 21.
Through August, the city’s 2012 revenues had come in at near expected levels, the city’s chief financial officer, Debra Bryant, told the City Council in September.
“What I don’t want to do is create any expectation among the council that there’s anything of great magnitude happening here,” Bryant said. “It’s kind of a slow climb up the mountain.”
The city has about 1,200 budgeted positions and this year has been keeping an average of 15 open at any given time, she said. In 2013, the city expects to average 25 open positions.
Other saving strategies the city is using include alternative sentencing for some crimes to avoid jail expenses and deferring traffic-sign replacement.
To balance last year’s budget, Everett’s non-union employees went without a cost-of-living pay increase. So did the mayor and the City Council. Nobody lost a job, but more than a dozen vacant positions disappeared for good.
The city typically passes a budget by mid-December. By law, it must have a balanced budget by the end of the year.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Everett City Council has scheduled three hearings — Nov. 7, Nov. 14 and Nov. 21 — on its 2013 budget. The hearings are held during the regular 6:30 p.m. council meetings. The address is 2930 Wetmore Ave.