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Snoqualmie prepares for leaner years ahead

SNOQUALMIE - With budgetary uncertainty looming, the city of Snoqualmie has been discussing methods of making future wrangling a little easier by implementing some early steps towards saving.

In June Mayor Fuzzy Fletcher made an executive order that all city department heads must defer all non-critical, budgeted expenditures and devise a plan where no more than 95 percent of the approved 2005 general fund budget is expended. Department heads are also expected to begin a departmental reorganization and restructuring plan with a Jan. 1, 2009 target date in mind. The executive order will also reduce compensatory time accrued by city management and professional employees. The plans are to be ready for City Council review by Oct. 31 of this year.

Executive orders can be instituted without City Council approval. The City Council has been discussing the executive order because Fletcher wants its consent. Fletcher also recommended the City Council make some interim administration policy changes for management and professional employees. (Only the City Council can make policy changes.) These changes include suspending Pay for Performance (a monetary incentive offered to some employees who achieve certain goals), slowing or freezing some salaries and Cost of Living Adjustments, suspending education pay, freezing the city's total monetary contribution for each employee toward insurance premiums and terminating the compensatory time policy and its use by Dec. 31, 2008.

The interim administrative policy changes are meant to give the City Council more time to review the city's personnel policies while reducing the general fund expenditures without disrupting management and professional employees. Any future City Council has the power to change interim policies at any time.

These changes are not expected to affect city services or to be noticeable to citizens, said Snoqualmie Finance Officer Harry Oestreich.

"These are savings, not budget cuts," Oestreich said. "The city is not being asked to reduce the budget; the mayor has asked department heads to limit spending. They are not losing spending authority in terms of what Council has been authorized to spend."

He added that according to the mayor's executive order and recommendations there have been no staff reductions contemplated.

According to Oestreich, the city will not get into serious financial issues until around 2009-2011, when the Ridge is built out and all the city's one-time revenue disappears. "We're gonna have to make sure the city is sized in staff and services within the available revenue at that time," Oestreich said.

The City Council is expected to discuss the mayor's executive order and interim administration policy changes at an upcoming financial workshop that is yet to be announced. Council will approve the final budget Dec. 12.

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