Economic development is key to the future of the City of Lake Stevens and the city council and city staff have budgeted $300,000 to help plan for a fiscally bright future.
“We need economic development, we did an assessment last year,” Jan Berg, city administrator said. “Now we know what we need to do, the next step is to do the planning.”
After months of workshops and meetings the Lake Stevens City Council approved the 2011 budget in late December, which includes cutting expenses and holding off adding any additional positions to the police department.
This year’s budget has been reduced to $8.1 million from $8.4 million in 2010. It does include a property tax increase of one percent, which the city has done each year. That means an estimated additional ten cents for every $1,000 of assessed value.
The first step in creating a tightened budget was to take a look at every department within the city and to see what expenditures could be cut. They were able to avoid staff lay-offs.
“We really looked at how we could save money without decreasing services,” Berg explained. “We asked the question, ‘Is it appropriate to spend money on that?’”
City staff was able to cut a number of expenses including things like office supplies and membership dues. They have also been able to decrease the amount of overtime in the police department by almost half. In the process of hiring and training new officers there is an additional overtime expense which will be eliminated for now.
“We really looked at the value we were getting out of some of the organizations we belonged to,” Berg said. “We asked ourselves ‘what is the level of service that we can come up with that will keep our officers and our community safe.’ I feel that we have found that.”
Other changes include closing the bathrooms at Lundeen Park on the weekends, cutting full-time park employee hours in the winter months and reorganizing the public works department.
“We tried to increase efficiency instead of adding personnel,” Berg said.
One major change is that now there will be one person in charge during snow storms. Their job is to ensure that safety is the top priority when deciding where to send the snow plows.
They are now working in conjunction with Lake Stevens Fire, Lake Stevens School District and the police department in order to ensure that emergency services and school bus routes are taken care of first.
Residents can visit the city’s website at www.ci.lake-stevens.wa.us
to see the snow routes.
“There is one person in charge and responsible which makes it more efficient and effective and who will communicate with the public,” Berg said.
The city amended the 2010 budget in the middle of the year and reduced expenses at that time. While planning for the 2011 budget, they also looked at budget projections for the next five years to start making changes today to improve the picture for the future.
“We are really trying to be conservative,” Berg said. “The city council has been very supportive of living within our means. We are aware that this is not our money, it belongs to our citizens and we want to be good stewards of that money.”
The budget is looked at regularly throughout the year with the intention of making sure there are no surprises.
“We review it together every month,” Berg explains. “If you don’t things can change quickly and we don’t want to be surprised.”