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Mill Creek’s public safety costs increasing

Mill Creek's public safety costs increasing
Public safety costs increasing

The City of Mill Creek’s public safety costs are projected to increase substantially over the next two years according to the City of Mill Creek’s Finance Director, Landy Manuel.

  • At the May 12th City Council Retreat Manuel projected Mill Creek’s 2013-2014 biennial police expenses will increase $1.4 million over the 2011-2012 expenditures. Mayor Mike Todd believes the increases are due to staffing of previously unfilled positions, and future police guild contract increases.
  • Manuel reported at the May 22nd City Council Meeting that the cost of fire and emergency medical services provided by Snohomish County Fire District 7 will increase $260,000 in 2013 and $660,000 in 2014 over the amount spent in 2012.

Together, the 2013-2014 police, fire, and emergency medical services costs are projected to be at least $2.3 million over the amount spent in 2011-2012. These increases contribute significantly to the Mill Creek’s projected $1.7 million budget deficit for the 2013-2014 biennium.

During the May 12th City Council Retreat, a majority of the Mill Creek City Council directed City staff to work on a 2013-2014 budget which reduces the deficit by some structural changes and some temporary fixes as follows:

  • Cut expenses in the general fund by $500,000. This structural budget change will likely include staffing reductions, a longer time between vehicle and equipment replacements, and other operational cuts. Acting City Manager, Tom Gathmann, explained that staff cuts would likely result in service cuts.
  • Increase revenues by $300,000 by a combination of property tax increases and/or by drawing down general fund reserves. A 3% property tax increase is a structural change that would result in the full $300,000 deficit decrease. Any reduction in general fund reserves is only a temporary fix.
  • Increase revenues by $300,000 by setting up a new 0.1% public safety sales and use tax, which would have to be approved by a majority of voters in the upcoming election. County Executive Aaron Reardon has proposed a similar sales and use tax countywide, but since the Snohomish County Council may oppose this move; it may be necessary for the City to place the measure on the ballot. If voters approve this option, it would be a structural budget change.
  • Use $600,000 from REET (Real Estate Excise Tax) to fund the Park Maintenance Budget. Recent legislation permits use of REET for this purpose through December 31, 2016. This is not a structural change, because the revenue is normally budgeted to fund Mill Creek’s capital projects.

The 0.1% public safety sales and use tax will be discussed in the June 12th City Council meeting.

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