When times are tough, people offer a lot of ideas about what the city should or should not do. It’s a good time to look back at what the city administration and council did when it became clear that the Great Recession was going to hit Tukwila hard financially.
State law requires a balanced budget. In the 2009/2010, the administration instituted a hiring freeze and a 3 percent budget cut in all departments. A wage freeze was initiated with all non-unionized department heads then expanded to all non-unionized employees. This affected about 44 employees.
The City Council adopted a three-legged stool paradigm to address the revenue shortfall in the 2011/2012 biennial budget. The three legs were program/service reductions, cost of compensation and increased revenues. It was known that there would be increased demand for service with annexations. The SCORE jail facility had to be funded at $700,000. The Howard Hanson Dam problem reared its ugly head. So far it has amounted to $1.7 million in contractor costs, not including staff time.
The city was looking for about $4 million in cuts to programs and services, $3 million in new revenues and $1 million cut in health care. The Neighborhood Resource Center was closed; Citizens Academy was dropped; educational outreach was reduced; the annual dump pass disappeared. Parks and Recreation was hit hard with approximately $500,000 in the first year and another $500,000 in the second year with the anticipated closure of the pool. Parks and Recreation pre-school was dropped; hours reduced; time spent in park maintenance reduced; events were eliminated or revised.
About 75 percent of general budget revenues goes to compensation. Twenty four full-time equivalents went unfilled, including seven layoffs. One 40-hour employee or a couple of 20-hour part time employees equal one FTE. The Police Department moved employees around from the traffic and major crimes divisions to reduce staff. The firefighters gave up their contracted Cost of Living Adjustment for one year. This was a big help. There were decreased contributions to the self-insurance fund as calculated by the city health benefit consultant.
The Revenue Generating Regulatory License (RGRL) tax, aka head tax, was implemented in 2011 bringing in an average of $1.7 million annually.
The residents voted to reverse a decision by the city council to close card rooms. This saved about $1.7 million annually.
Property taxes were increased by an average of one percent as allowed by state law. Various parks and recreation fees were increased.
The cumulative effect was almost 6.5 percent reduction in cost of operations in 2011 and just a .32% increase in 2012. While there is always room for improvement, residents can feel confident that city finances arehandled competently.