Tag Archives: city finances

Study indicates Bainbridge boasts large tenured city workforce

During a presentation on a citywide study of job classification and compensation by Milliman Inc. of Seattle, Bainbridge City Council members learned during Monday night’s meeting that Bainbridge Island city employees receive approximately 9 percent above the market median (50th percentile) when comparing actual salaries.

The compensation analysis was from 34 cities that responded to Milliman’s request. Most of the responding cities were primarily from Washington, but some were from Oregon, said Greg McNutt, a compensation consultant and principal with Milliman. Yakima, Renton, Spokane Valley, Marysville and Lakewood were some of the municipalities that responded.

“You have a lot of tenured people here,” McNutt told the Council. “You have 86 percent of the people that are at the top step.”

Some of the recommendations given by McNutt for managing the city’s staff included:

— Managing base salaries toward its intended market position. This action will maintain desired market target.

— Maintaining benefits in their current form. This will provide employees both the opportunity to save for retirement and act as a safety net against unforeseen health issues.

— Maintaining salary structured at their current range width, but create mores steps within each grade with annual increments of approximately 3 percent between steps. This would cause pay progression problems to diminish over time.

— Manage high fixed costs of base salaries.

McNutt’s presentation to the City Council was for information only and no action was taken on it.

New poll: Where would you have made budget cuts?

Head over to the right column to cast your vote on where the City Council should have larger cuts to the 2010 budget.

You can see the latest list of cuts here. The council is scheduled to approve the reduced budget at tonight’s meeting.

As for the Bainbridge Conversation’s last poll, results showed strong opposition to the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance lawsuit. Fifty-eight percent of the 178 votes cast were against it, and 42 percent were for it.

City vows to put money in the bank

The City Council agreed to fill the city’s reserves with $3 million by the end of next year.

They’ll do it by making substantial cuts and selling city property.

The details about those cuts will come this week, when the council is expected to start slashing at staff levels and city services.

The council last week has hinted that some city support for local nonprofits may get the ax.

Mayor Bob Scales called out the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council, the police vehicle fund, the Kitsap Humane Society and the downtown association for likely cuts.

For more about the council’s decision to build up the city’s reserves, click here.

City agrees to pay $495,000 to homebuilders group

The city on Wednesday night agreed to pay a $495,000 settlement to a homebuilders group contesting a fee that supported the city’s affordable housing efforts.

The City Council unanimously approved the settlement, capping an eight-year legal battle with the Homebuilders Association of Kitsap County and three Bainbridge development companies.

“I’m very pleased we can settle this matter,” Councilman Barry Peters said. “But the key issue is: it’s a lot money.”

The settlement will take a sizable chunk of a $1.8 million reserve the cash-strapped city is trying to build by the end of the year.

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New city manager assesses Bainbridge’s challenges

dombroskimugThe new City Manager (and old City Administrator) Mark Dombroski gave a detailed assessment of the city’s financial challenges at a Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Wednesday.

You can read my coverage of Dombroski’s talk here. My story focuses on Dombroski’s assessment of the city’s limited revenue base and how greater economic diversity – particularly through a tourism industry boost – may put the city on more stable financial footing.

Dombroski covered a lot more ground in his talk. To get a sense of it, you can download his PowerPoint presentation at the city’s Website. Look under “News and Announcements.”

Here’s some highlights:

The limited revenue base (which relies heavily on growth and development) was only one problem the city faced as it entered the the recession. According to Dombroski, the city had in recent years grown beyond the reach of its relatively volatile revenue sources, had increased its staffing levels, taken on a greater role in providing community services since 2000.

He said the city’s geography is particular challenge. Bainbridge is the state’s eighth largest city in terms of land size but ranks 40th in populationf. That makes for a thinly populated city. Bainbridge’s density, according to Dombroski, is ranked 223 out of 281 Washington cities. The city has 32 square miles for police to patrol (vs. 23 sq. miles for Bremerton), 53 miles of shoreline to protect and 132 miles of roads to maintain. The small population generates low levels of revenue in proportion to the size of the area under the city’s care.

“We have very little density and don’t have the tax base or retail sales, but we police the area, protect the shorelines and maintain the roads,” Dombroski said. “That’s a lot to take care of.”

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City to cut another $3.6 million from budget

A marathon nine-hour City Council meeting ended with the decision to cut another $3.55 million from an ever-slimming budget.

Most of the cost savings will come from surplus property sales and staffing reductions.

Another $1 million in cuts have yet to be decided. The council put off a decision on possible reduced support for community organizations.

Read my story here.

Sewer plant upgrade moves forward, despite legal threats

Below is my coverage of last night’s council action on bond funding for the Winslow sewer plant upgrade. The council’s narrow approval came hours after an utility ratepayer group threatened legal action to block bond funding.

Despite the threat of a lawsuit, the City Council on Wednesday narrowly approved the first step in issuing a bond to pay for a $15.5 million upgrade of the Winslow sewer treatment plant.

The council, by a vote of four to three, approved a line of credit to set the bond process in motion. On March 25, the council is scheduled to vote on the bond’s final approval.

Hours before the vote, the city received a letter from an attorney hired by the Bainbridge Ratepayers Alliance warning of “appropriate legal recourse” if the city approves the bonds.

Attorney Richard Stephens, who did not return calls for comment, charges in the letter that the city failed to fully disclose its “dire financial situation” as it developed its bond proposal. Poor financial footing, according to Stephens, could dampen the city’s reputation, leading to higher interest rates, more stringent loan conditions and higher bills for ratepayers.

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Between $3-6 million in city budget cuts loom

Look below for my story on last night’s City Council endorsement of a giant reduction in city spending. Staff cuts are a sure thing, according the administration.

The City Council aimed for the ballpark rather than the bulls-eye when endorsing a dollar amount that will guide a new round of budget cuts.

Somewhere between $3-6 million in reductions loom ahead, making it a near certainty that several city employees and services will have to go.

“It’s hard, but history does show we’ve been overly optimistic,” said Councilwoman Debbie Vancil, referring to recent budget reductions the city’s been forced to make as revenues spiraled downward.

The city’s new financial outlook is based on worst-case scenario projections provided by City Administrator Mark Dombroski last week.

While Dombroski predicted the city may see shortfalls of $2.4 million in tax-based revenues and about $1 million in other areas, some councilors wanted to prepare for even greater losses.

Councilman Bill Knobloch proposed the biggest cuts, arguing that the city should cut $7 million from the budget to keep the city’s finances solid and put over $2 million in reserve.

Some city staff expressed confusion about how to factor in the wide ranging $3-6 million
amount as they look at how to make reductions.

Steering clear of multiple reduction scenarios, Dombroski said he’ll present to the council next Wednesday a detailed breakdown – “from staff to supplies” – of how much each of the departments spend. From there, the council can determine where to make cuts.

“I want to avoid a tennis game where I lob up numbers and sped the next two months going back and forth with the council while the economy continues to deteriorate,” Dombroski said.

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Council to debate new cuts to staff and community groups

The City Council is scheduled to discuss steeper revenue shortfalls than had been expected earlier this year. Some on the council want to focus new budget cuts at the staffing level, laying off as many as 30 employees. Others want to focus the cuts on the amount the city doles out to arts, social service and business nonprofits. Read my story here.

The council is expected to begin their workshop on city finances at 5:30 p.m. today. The regular council meeting begins at 7 p.m.

A worst-case scenario for city finances

The city has established a worst-case scenario for its predicted revenues in 2009.

If it bares out, it won’t be pretty.

The city may be forced to shave an additional $2.4 million from a budget still smarting after recent staff and service cuts.

The City Council asked the administration to develop a baseline revenue estimate after having seen estimates trimmed down in recent months.

While Finance Director Elray Konkel is predicting $18 million in revenue for 2009, the baseline estimate – which he considers the lowest revenues could possibly go based on current data – puts possible revenues at $15.6 million. The city’s revenues haven’t been that low since 2004.

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Winslow Way project moving forward on time, on budget

Despite the city’s shaky financial state, City Council members were assured this week that the $12 million Winslow Way reconstruction project will move along strong and steady.

The project draws its financial stability from grants and utility fees, which are not tied to the city’s sharply declining tax revenue bases, according to city staff.

Read my story here.

Scales: “Who’s in charge at City Hall?”

In an open letter to the City Council, mayoral candidate Bob Scales said a lack of leadership contributed to the city’s financial troubles. Read the letter below…

As I watched your discussions tonight about the city’s financial problems, I kept asking myself: “Who is in charge?”

Is it Mayor Darlene Kordonowy? City Administrator Mark Dombroski? Finance Director Elray Konkel? City Attorney Paul McMurray? A council member? Who is going to lead the city in this time of crisis? Who is going to take responsibility for solving the city’s financial mess? Who is going to come up with a financial recovery plan? Who is going to implement that plan?

Nothing was done in the mayor’s proposed 2009-2010 budget to reduce the impacts of this economic crisis. Nothing was done by the council during the budget process to protect the city from insolvency. Less than two months after the budget was adopted, the city finds itself on the brink of bankruptcy. This is no longer a dire prediction made by a few concerned citizens. These are the words of your own city administrator. The city is insolvent. Unfortunately it is an admission that may come too late to avert the city’s imminent collapse.

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