Olympia residents have their say about 2012 budget

Olympia residents had their first opportunity to tell leaders what they think of City Manager Steve Hall’s proposed $108.9 million city budget for 2012.

A handful of people representing social services testified at the City Council meeting Monday night that they were pleased that $76,000 remains to fund the Human Services Review Council, a regional board that divvies up social service spending across Thurston County.

Resident Jim Lazar voiced his “great disappointment” that the city is paying for building maintenance from its capital facilities budget, typically used to build things. Lazar supports bicycle and pedestrian pathways. He suggested that the city make its code enforcement division raise more money and reduce public relations positions in the Public Works Department.

“The city should make code enforcement a revenue producer for the city,” he said.

Hall and Jane Kirkemo, the city’s finance director, have had to get creative to find the money to balance the budget. The city’s tax revenues and other revenue sources have been declining, while costs have been jumping and maintenance requirements growing.

Three full-time equivalent positions were cut, but Hall said as many as five people may lose their jobs, depending on how many of them can be shifted to other positions that can pay their salaries. In the past, Hall has shifted people from the city’s taxpayer-supported positions to utility positions, which are paid by utility bills.

“The 2012 operating budget is balanced,” Hall said. “It avoids major cuts of programs and services.”

The city’s strategy is to limp by for 2012, as Kirkemo put it. But the budget is not sustainable beyond 2012, she said.

That’s because the city has deferred maintenance and tapped one-time sources of funding to get by this year. Most employees will get no cost-of-living raise, just like the last two years. Only police officers will get a 1 percent raise, because of a union contract.

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869