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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Council Roundup: Reduced staffing, fees to balance budget

Also, re-elected councilmembers sworn in, Degginger honored and annexation accelerated

The City Council on Monday approved a new fee for non-critical medical transports that will help narrow a $6.5 million general fund budget gap, but were told that significant reductions also will be needed to fully balance spending and revenue.

Actions taken by the council Monday were part of a state-required mid-biennium review of the city's 2011-2012 budget, which includes the general fund. Because of the sluggish economy and lower tax revenues, the general fund deficit is projected to continue for some time.

To balance the general fund, the city will reduce spending by $4.6 million, implement the transport fees totaling $1 million, and refund $800,000 from internal service funds to the general fund.

In order to achieve the $4.6 million in savings, City Manager Steve Sarkozy and department directors already have reduced spending through staff cuts and dozens of smaller savings throughout City Hall. Staff reductions will include the elimination of 17 full-time equivalent positions, six of which will involve layoffs, voluntary separations or voluntary retirements.

Despite those actions, the city remains about $1.6 million short of balancing the budget. Sarkozy indicated that cutbacks will be required in 2012 and has proposed a list of additional staff reductions that include: a Senior Land Use Planner (DSD); four bicycle patrol officers; and eight firefighters. The Police and Fire positions are not expected to involve any layoffs.

The proposed reductions for 2012 come on top of those made last year when the city reduced its workforce by 49 positions and cut $16 million from the budget.

Sarkozy told councilmembers the budget review was extremely difficult because the mid-biennium review is meant to be a mid-course correction, not a budget overhaul. While the "majority of cuts have come from support services" Sarkozy said, upcoming budget-cutting decisions by the state legislature could mean even more belt-tightening for Bellevue. 

Among the budget-related issues considered by the council:

  • Transport fee: Councilmembers approved an emergency medical services fee for transporting "basic life support" patients to hospitals. The new transport fee will be $600, plus $14 per mile, for patients with less serious ailments, comparable to other cities and fire departments in King County. The vote was 5-2 with Councilmembers Grant Degginger and John Chelminiak voting against the ordinance.
  • No new taxes: The council on Monday declined to act on a proposal to raise utility tax rates; and last week councilmembers approved a 2012 property tax levy that includes no increase in the base amount collected from Bellevue property owners (with a 1.1 percent overall increase over 2011 due entirely to new construction and technical adjustments).

For more information on the 2011-2012 mid-biennium budget see the council agenda materials at http://www.bellevuewa.gov/pdf/City%20Council/PacketStudySession12-12-112b.pdf

Feedback: Toni Rezab, Budget Manager, 425-452-7863 or trezab@bellevuewa.gov

Early acceptance of annexation petitions from Eastgate?
The council agreed to hold a public hearing and possibly accept annexation petitions from Eastgate and Tamara Hills on Dec. 19.

Property owners representing more than 50 percent of the assessed value of both unincorporated areas have signed petitions seeking annexation to the City of Bellevue. The council was originally going to take action on them next spring, but could act early to preserve a state tax credit designed to offset the cost of providing services to thousands of new residents.

The Legislature, in a special session to address a state budget shortfall, is considering eliminating the tax credit for any new annexations. Staff believe Bellevue has a better chance of keeping that credit if the Eastgate and Tamara Hills annexations are already in process before the legislative session ends.  

If the council accepts the petitions, actual annexation would still occur next year, after review by the King County Boundary Review Board.

The council's action would not have an effect on the possible annexation of two other unincorporated areas of South Bellevue -- Hilltop and Horizon View. Petitions from the necessary 50 percent of property owners in those neighborhoods have not been submitted yet.

Feedback: Nicholas Matz, Senior Planner, 425-452-5371 or nmatz@bellevuewa.gov 

Balducci, Chelminiak and Robertson sworn in
Councilmembers Claudia Balducci, John Chelminiak and Jennifer Robertson, who were all re-elected this fall, were sworn in for new four-year terms Monday.

Both Balducci and Chelminiak start their third terms in January. Robertson will begin her first full term after being elected in fall 2009 to complete the two remaining years of Phil Noble's term.

John Stokes, who ran for the Council Position No. 1 seat vacated by Councilmember Grant Degginger, has been declared the unofficial winner following an election so close it required a hand recount of ballots. The King County Canvassing Board is expected to certify the results shortly, clearing the way for Stokes to be sworn in at the council's Jan. 3 meeting.

Degginger commended for 12 years on council
Councilmember Grant Degginger, who chose not to seek re-election this fall after three terms, was commended for his service to the city.

"Tonight we honor Grant Degginger for his 20 years of service to Bellevue, including his membership on the Planning Commission from 1991 to 1998, his three terms on the City Council beginning in 1999 and two terms as mayor, from 2006 through 2009," Mayor Don Davidson read from a proclamation.

All of his colleagues on the council praised Degginger.

Claudia Balducci credited Degginger for being a "proximate cause" behind several Bellevue milestones including the water system, the new City Hall, major land-use plans for downtown and the Bel-Red area, new parks and light rail through Bellevue.

"Without you, it wouldn't have happened," Balducci said.

Kevin Wallace told Degginger, "You raise the bar. You stand out as a guy who really knows the subject matter well, drives it home and works aggressively for your position, which unfortunately is not always my position, but, nevertheless, really is laudable."

City Manager Steve Sarkozy said, "When I think of your tenure on the council, particularly your years as mayor, the word that comes to mind, which is repeated over and over, is leadership. You got out of the minutia and led this organization forward on issues that were critically important to the community, and that's a great legacy."

Degginger thanked his colleagues and his family for allowing him to devote many evenings to city business, including council meetings that "can get a little out of hand sometimes.

"But the reason it got out of hand is because this is such a great city," Degginger continued. He cited Bellevue's diversity, high level of economic activity, quality jobs, high standard of living and low crime.

"None of this happens by accident," Degginger said. "It happens because of the fiber of the people who live here. They are wonderful people, and it's a true honor to serve them."

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