Layoff notices heading to 96 Lynnwood city workers

  • By Oscar Halpert For The Enterprise
  • Tuesday, November 2, 2010 10:12pm

LYNNWOOD — For months, the City Council asked Mayor Don Gough to deliver a balanced 2011-12 budget to them as soon as possible.

This week Gough responded, offering up for the City Council’s consideration a $138.6 million preliminary budget that closes a $21.6 million gap in part with an unprecedented number of employee layoffs and cuts to programs.

On Nov. 1, Gough notified union leaders that 96 employees — including 13 firefighters and 18 police officers — will receive layoff notices next week.

The notices come two months after 102 employees received what the city termed a courtesy notice that their names were on a potential January layoff list. There are 460 full- and part-time city employees.

Along with cuts, Gough also proposed utility, public safety and property tax increases intended to raise $6 million to restore some police and fire department jobs.

And he said he found a way to save both the popular Kids Klub preschool program and five of nine municipal court jobs slated for layoffs.

Gough said he considered recommendations from Tim Reilly and Steve Miller, two outside budget experts who advised the council last spring, in formulating his proposal.

Miller told the council at that time the city needed to make long-term or structural changes to the budget.

“No matter how you do structural changes, you’re still going to have the net amount comprised of cuts and layoffs,” Gough said.

To save some of those police and fire jobs, Gough recommended a 2 percent increase in taxes on drinking water, garbage, sewer, surface water and electricity.

The council approved a 4 percent tax on some of those utilities last May to help plug a hole in the 2010 budget. The city in 2009 began collecting 6 percent garbage, cable and telephone taxes. A portion of those 2009 utility tax revenues were dedicated to repaying the debt on the new recreation center, which is now under construction.

Gough also is recommending 3 percent property tax increases in 2011 and 2012 and a requirement that businesses pay the city a new fee based on either the number of employees they have or the square footage of their businesses. He said the new business tax, which he referred to as a Revenue Regulatory License, could bring in $3.5 million over the next two years. He urged the council to consider the possibility of asking for a public vote on a new 0.1 percent public safety tax he projects could bring in $2.6 million over two years.

“We weren’t aware the revenue proposal was being made, but it is something that at least has some potential to ameliorate the cuts,” Police Chief Steve Jensen said Tuesday.

Gough also called on the Transportation Benefit District’s board, made up of council members, to approve a $20 car tab fee to pay for transportation projects as soon as possible.

The council today, Nov. 3, will begin reviewing Gough’s proposal and public hearings on the budget are scheduled to begin next Monday.

“I’m very pleased that the mayor presented his budget that called for both revenue increases and cuts,” Council President Mark Smith said Tuesday, Nov. 2. “The council will be looking closely at his recommendations as well as putting forth their own recommendations in the coming weeks.”

Councilwoman Kerri Lonergan said she was disappointed Gough didn’t inform the council he was about to issue the layoff notices.

“The fact that he gave out layoff notices without informing us is contradictory to his statement about working together,” she said. “He’s talking about how we should all be working together but that is not how he is behaving. Talk is cheap.”

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