Everett puts budget process under review

EVERETT — City leaders haven’t passed next year’s budget — yet — but they’re already pondering structural changes in 2015 and beyond.

The 2014 budget, which the City Council is likely to vote on tonight, is likely to be the last one with incremental changes.

Over the long term, Mayor Ray Stephanson has called for a more drastic rethinking of how the city conducts business. What form that takes remains to be seen.

“We’re very early in the process,” Stephanson said Tuesday. “Right now, we’re anticipating that by the end of the first quarter (of 2014) we’ll be back with some recommendations.”

In his official budget remarks this fall, Stephanson said he would convene department directors over a period of several months to look at ways to restructure city services.

City parks director Paul Kaftanski, who has a finance background, has been tasked with heading up the effort to look at a menu of potential options to make over the city’s spending plans. Recent stop gap measures — described as necessary to stay within budget — have included leaving positions unfilled and delaying payment to pension plans for city workers.

Kaftanski’s initial overview of the process is scheduled during Wednesday’s council meeting, before the vote on the 2014 budget.

The 2014 budget calls for $113.5 million in operating expenses — about 1.3 percent more than the city spent in 2013. Total revenues for next year are estimated at $502.6 million, but the city can’t tap much of that money for day-to-day operations.

The draft budget for next year would pay for 1,183 total city employees, about 735 of them out of the general fund.

Since 2009, when the full impact of the recession hit city finances, Everett has eliminated nearly 25 full-time jobs.

On a related budget issue, the City Council is set to consider a 1.4 percent cost-of-living increase for the approximately 230 city employees who are not represented by a union. The council is scheduled to vote on the raise at the Dec. 11 meeting. The size of that increase is based on the consumer price index for urban consumers in the Seattle-Tacoma-Bremerton area, as determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, city spokeswoman Meghan Pembroke said.

Non-union city employees received a cost-of-living raise for 2013, but none for 2012, Pembroke said.

The city negotiates separately with its six unions covering its other employees: an AFSCME bargaining unit, the largest, representing about 470 workers; two police unions; a fire union; a transit union; and a crafts union.

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

Meeting today

The Everett City Council is scheduled to pass the city’s 2014 budget at Wednesday’s regular council meeting at 6:30 p.m. The address is 3002 Wetmore Ave.

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