Council OKs budget, job cuts

OLYMPIA - On the final Olympia City Council meeting of the year, the council bade farewell to two members and passed its 2010 budget, which cuts $4 million, 13 employees and 14 other positions.

Council members Jeff Kingsbury and Karen Messmer will be replaced with council members-elect Stephen Buxbaum and Karen Rogers. But a portion of city services are going away, such as some street sweeping, parks maintenance and arts and events funding. Some cuts initially proposed to the budget were restored, other cuts were made and taxes were increased to come up with the $56 million general fund spending plan.

The budget restores some $842,000 in cuts that City Manager Steve Hall had initially proposed. The budget restored funding for a victim assistance program and $150,000 that could be used to restore the school resource officer program. Some $10,000 in funding to the Thurston County Economic Development Council, $20,000 to neighborhood services and $5,000 to operate and maintain the Amtrak station in Lacey were also restored.

The council also restored social service funding slated to be cut, and agreed to send $170,000 to the Human Services Review Council, an interjurisdictional agency that distributes social service funding.

To pay for the restorations, the City Council is increasing utility rates for drinking water, stormwater and wastewater. It is transferring council goal money from this year, drawing from a contingency fund, securing a grant and expecting more property tax revenue than initially budgeted.

The council will increase one-time hook-up fees of 0.3 percent assessed to developers for city drinking water, stormwater and wastewater. All customers would see rate increases of 5 percent in the tax for the water utility and 3 percent for the wastewater, stormwater and garbage utilities. It proposes changes to transportation and park impact fees, but the net impact fees would drop, because of a 35 percent reduction in the school impact fee proposed by the Olympia School District.

Other cuts that weren’t part of Hall’s initial budget proposal were made final Tuesday night. The city suspended the $1-per-capita contribution from the operating budget to pay for public art – a contribution that would have totaled $45,000 next year.

The council also cut its contract with its independent police auditor, who determines whether investigations of alleged police misconduct are complete and objective. The city has budgeted $22,500 yearly for the auditor, although the costs, billed by the hour, were usually between $6,000 and $8,000 a year.

In other end-of-the-year action, the council moved to change the sunset on its noise ordinance to December 2010, and approved extending development deadlines for certain subdivisions that are stalled due to the bad economy.

The council also named three parks – Mission Creek Nature Park at 1700 San Francisco Ave. N.E., Evergreen Park at 1445 Evergreen Park Drive S.W. and McGrath Woods Park at 2300 Cain Road S.E. The latter’s naming was controversial, because it was named after the donating family.

But Kingsbury said it was known by a similar name when it was privately owned, when he played there as a child. “I think it’s an excellent name,” he said.