EVERETT — As a $13 million budget deficit looms over the city for 2019, Mayor Cassie Franklin is proposing “aggressive” cuts to services. That includes eliminating jobs to keep the city financially afloat.
“None of these decisions are easy. None of them are attractive … but they are getting us toward that balanced budget,” she said in an interview with The Daily Herald.
Franklin on Wednesday night presented her suggestions to the City Council’s budget committee. They include cutting 13 full-time positions — not all of them currently filled — out of 1,133 citywide, as well as increasing certain fees and penalties.
Her goal is not to diminish public safety or quality of life, Franklin said. No reductions are recommended in the number of front-line police officers or firefighters, and the city is still hiring for open positions in those departments, according to the mayor’s office.
“Let’s make sure we have more people out on the street and not behind a desk,” Franklin said.
Franklin inherited long-term budget problems when she took office in January. For years, the city has struggled with a growing deficit as costs have risen faster than revenue.
With “difficult, painful cuts,” Franklin said the city must consider eliminating “programs and services we all cherish.”
“For too long, we have not made these decisions,” she said.
If the city continues business as usual, in 2022 Everett will be spending $23.7 million more than it brings in, according to projections.
In February, the mayor asked each department to submit ideas for services that could be reduced or axed.
About $6 million of the proposed cuts are long-term reductions, meaning the savings carry into the future.
That amount is unprecedented for a single year, Franklin said. The total deficit, $13 million, also would be partially offset by money budgeted for spending this year but not yet spent.
Her plan includes doubling parking tickets to $40, adding a membership fee for the senior center and decreasing funds for the library and arts, among other changes.
Councilmembers on the budget committee balked at the proposed cuts to the arts and libraries. They questioned the potential effects for departments with smaller budgets.
Franklin said the city is talking with workers affected by job reductions to find them other positions, if possible. They were notified in recent weeks that their jobs will end in December.
A property tax is the largest source of revenue for the city, accounting for more than a quarter of the money that comes in each year. Large streams also come from business taxes and a sales tax.
The mayor says the recently approved Metro Everett plan, which rezones much of downtown, will make it easier to attract large construction projects. That area of Everett is likely to grow upward — not spread out. The shift could drive economic growth, which would provide much-needed tax revenue, Franklin said.
The mayor’s presentation is the first phase of the budget process. The full City Council is expected to begin its review in the coming weeks.
Reporter Rikki King contributed to this story.
Lizz Giordano: 425-374-4165; egiordano@herald net.com. Twitter: @lizzgior.