Monthly Archives: October 2008

City Proposes To Tax Itself Back Into The Black

Although Mayor Cary Bozeman is proposing closing a projected $4.4 million budget deficit with $4.1 million in cuts, his 2009 budget also proposes some new revenues.

In several areas Bozeman is proposing fee increases, some small like the 25 cent hike on yearly membership dues for city residents at the Bremerton Senior Center in Manette,

In addition to the fee increases, there are two tax increases in Bozeman’s budget, one is the legal limited increase of 1 percent on property taxes, an obligatory tax cities say doesn’t even allow them to keep up with expenses, and a tax on three city utilities.

That isn’t to be confused with a rate increase for sewer, water, and stormwater, although that is likely coming as well.

The tax is the city taxing the money being paid to the city-owned utilities, called a PILOT, or payment in lieu of taxes. Currently the utilities pay the city a PILOT rate of 8.5 percent. Bozeman is proposing that be increased by 1 percent to 9 .5 percent. Budget writers expect this will pump about $250,000 into the city’s general fund.

It will, likewise, pump $250,000 out of the utilities.

The first reaction to this is, intuitively, that the utilities will turn around and raise rates, thus a shell game of sorts that would provide elected officials cover.

The City Council will vote on a 5.8 percent rate increase on the three utilities, but that is the limit allowed by city statute and would likely have been recommended with or without the PILOT proposal, said Public Works and Utilities Director Phil Williams.

“Believe me, our costs went up at least that much,” he said.

That still will create a hole in the utilities’ budgets which will come out of each construction budget, Williams said.

This move to tax the utilities to provide a boost to sagging revenues may come at little cost now, but the potential problems come in the long term life of the pipes and other infrastructure used by the utilities.

In the short term, the utilities can absorb the increased tax, officials said. In the long term, it leaves less money to replace aging infrastructure.

In case of an emergency, like the broken water main that tunneled a giant sinkhole in Seattle last year, the utilities are required to finish the year with at least a 12 percent cushion, Williams said. That money could be used to pay for an emergency.

And the council has shown a willingness to back down taxes. So Williams said the move doesn’t have to be permanent.

Officials have predicted in about two years revenues from sales and real estate taxes will began flowing back into city coffers.

Does Bozeman Smoke Grape Swishers?

Cigars, like Metamucil, are a taste best acquired after all other alternatives have been exhausted.

Although Bremerton’s favorite stogie might be the grape Swisher, sold individually for about $1 at the 7-Eleven at Park and Sixth, that was not likely the brand Mayor Cary Bozeman had neglected, and with which he nearly burned down his waterfront home last weekend.

Here is the story from the Sun, written by our award-winning Josh Farley, and the not-so-award-winning me.

Below you will find all sorts of interesting comments. None of which revel in a politician’s misfortu … Oh. Never mind.

Here is a blog post from the Seattle Weekly, which claims the indirect cause of Bozeman’s fire is the smoking ban on the ferries. Perhaps, SW staffer and Son of Bremerton Chris Kornelis suggests, if Bozeman could have taken his cigar with him while riding the ferry to watch the UW’s “God awful” performance Saturday (“God awful” are Bozeman’s words) he wouldn’t have left the cigar burning on his deck.

This is a great argument for disgruntled smokers shunned for lighting up, but what about nudists? Think of all the disasters that could be averted if the state lightened up and allowed passengers to ride the ferries in their birthday suits. I can’t think of any right now.

This story has gained some traction near and far, which goes to show that the rest of the world hangs on Bremerton’s every move. At least crappy local television news stations.

Summer Lunch Program On Chopping Block

Anyone? … Anyone?

One cut proposed by Mayor Cary Bozeman, trying to hem up a projected $4.4 million budget deficit, is to scale back a popular summer lunch program targeted at low-income kids.

The Summer Playground Program, also called Fun at the Playgrounds and the Playground Program, includes supervised activities and lunches for kids who might otherwise not eat. If approved, the program would be reduced from five parks to three parks.

The program runs June 30 to Aug. 8, rain or shine, Monday through Friday, according to the city’s Web site. City staff supervises activities from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. each day. The games and activities are designed for kids ages 6 to 12 years old, but people up to age 19 can show up for the lunch.

The five parks in which the program operates are Haddon, Matan, and Evergreen Rotary in West Bremerton and Armin Jahr and Manette in East Bremerton

Which parks would lose the program would be decided by Parks and Recreation Director Wyn Birkenthal, said city Financial Services Director Laura Lyon.

Bremerton School District pays for the lunch, which is served at 11:30 a.m.

Councilman Mike Shepherd said he has heard from many residents of the city chiming in on what and where to cut to ensure the city’s budget balances, and above all other programs Shepherd said the summer lunch program is the most popular.

About 60 percent of the Bremerton School District’s students qualify for the free and reduced lunch program. In some cases, the only meal kids are guaranteed is the one they are served at school. Over the summer that guarantee goes away.

Hence the program to keep the kids off the streets by leading them on activities in the park and making sure they are getting the nutrition to develop physically and mentally.

The 2009 budget is now in the hands of the city council, which will look it over, possibly make changes, and approve it. Although Bozeman could technically try to undo any changes made by the council, the group of nine city legislators is considered the final say.

It’s expected to be considered by the council for final passage Dec. 3.

Bozeman has said this budget will causes pain, but it is necessary, claiming the region, state and country are in recession. Bozeman also proposed forgoing the $6,119 cost of living adjustment to which he is entitled. The budget prepared by his administration adjusts for the $4.4 million deficit mainly through cuts, including the proposal to scale back the city’s flower program, one of Bozeman’s favorites.

Wednesday night the council will meet with administration officials for the first in a series of workshops.

At a Manette community meeting Tuesday night, resident Sunny Wheeler, a daycare teacher by profession, asked if there might be a church or a community group that could step in and pick up the program should the city decide to phase it back.

“How do you decide who is not going to get it?” Wheeler asked.

Free Halloween Party Guarantees Frights

On Halloween Night, head over the Sheridan Community Center (the Scare-idan Community Center, for the night) for an evening of tricks and treats.

The event is being sponsored by the Chief Kitsap Lions Club, the Bremerton Police Officers Guild and Bremerton Parks and Recreation.

There will be costume and pumpkin carving contests (they will have tools, you bring your own pumpkin.

There also will be a Scare-dian park Spooky Trail, sort of an outdoor haunted house, lit by Jack-o-Lanterns.

In an announcement from the city, the trail promises to be not “too scary.”

The even takes place Friday at 680 Lebo Blvd. and runs 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Also, organizers are looking for donations of candy and volunteers. Call 473-5305 to help or for more information.

Bremerton’s 2009 Proposed Budget Available

Budget proposal? That calls for a fist pump!

Hang on to your wispy mustaches!

Because here comes Mayor Cary Bozeman’s 2009 budget proposal.

You don’t have to be a public finance major, or a major geek, to enjoy and understand this important document. Budget writer Laura Lyon has included an overview that puts the whole thing in English.

Pick your poison here.

Inside you will find out how the city proposes closing a $4.4 million budget gap, including 20 percent less lawn mowing at parks and closing the city’s swimming pool during the weekend and for the 5:30 a.m. weekday swim.

Among other cuts.

Bremerton isn’t alone, shown with this story about kvetching mayors Thursday.

Watch a KOMO video on the meeting here, where Bozeman talks about some of the more visible cuts proposed.

If you just want the skinny, and don’t have time to fiddle with Adobe or system-draining videos, read my first-blush budget story here.

If you want a little deeper look, try this heart-pounding account, a story filed today that suggests the four people who will lose jobs under this budget scenario will likely be joined by five more, including three police officers, if Tim Eyman’s I-985 is approved and red light camera revenue is earmarked for congestion reduction programs.

After all that heavy, relevant stuff, read this completely irrelevant story about how Captain Kirk is peeved at helmsman Sulu for not inviting him to his gay wedding.

Manette District Meeting To Discuss Budget

Councilman Adam Brockus will host a District 3 community meeting Tuesday, Oct. 28 from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Bremerton Senior Center located at East 13th Street and Nipsic Avenue.

The program will include a presentation on the city’s 2009 budget with Laura Lyon, director of financial services.

Please contact the council office for more information at (360) 473-5280.

Wherefore Art Thou, Ron Sher?


Someone should tell developer Ron Sher, owner of the giant Soviet-style parking garage downtown that used to be J.C. Penney, that the wrong way to cultivate an image as a maverick is to get your picture in the Seattle Times holding a Starbucks cup.

However, this has made me realize there are many relevant tidbits that could be useful to developers and public relations professionals planning to reap the potential fruit that Bremerton dangles like so many concord grapes.

And we here at the Bremerton Beat are tired of being part of the problem. We want to be part of the solution, or something.

Read the Seattle Times story here.

Or, for a trip down memory lane, read a very similar story written in June 2007 by my predecessor Steve “Death Grip” Gardner here.

And note after reading both stories that very little has changed.

Now, I would never advise amateurs tangle with all this high-brow media stuff. Leave it to us professionals. However, if you must try to write a economic development story about the Paris of Kitsap County, the Bremerton Beat has created a to-do list to guide you through this sometimes confusing and usually boring process.

Step 1: Send photographer to Bremerton on a ferry to replenish the stock photo inventory of Harborside Fountain Park and/or the immediate vicinity of the ferry terminal. Don’t worry, the longest they will have to stay here is an hour.

Step 2: Place phone call to PR-approved newsmakers. Avoid talking to people on the street, who are much more skeptical than those who earn their living as cheerleaders.
-Avoid questions like, “So, Ron Sher, you told the Sun last year the earliest parts of the Penney’s building would open would be in 2009. Now, you told the Times you hope to ‘break ground’ in 2010. Any chance you’ll back off of the project entirely?” Or, more directly, “How long will the center of Bremerton be a block of concrete next to a hole in the ground?”
-Also, stay away from, “How come you won’t return calls to the Kitsap Sun’s Bremerton reporter?”
-(Disclosure: I haven’t even tried to call Sher recently. It hurts my feelings when rich and powerful people don’t call me back.)
-Here’s a question suggestion: “From a holistic perspective, in terms of proactive synergy, how do you generate goal-oriented results without sacrificing core principles while at the same time enhancing your commitment to demonstrating solid maximization?”

Step 3: Think of a vague yet upbeat headline, like “Bremerton Rising” or “Bremerton Rearing Its Head” or “Bremerton, Walk With A Purpose And Don’t Make Eye Contact.”

Step 4: Have the city post your story on its Web site.

Step 5: Pat yourself on the back.

Budget Summit Will Include All Kitsap Mayors

Despite being a day after Mayor Cary Bozeman presents his 2009 budget to the Bremerton City Council, Bozeman and more than a dozen mayors of small- and medium-sized cities will meet in Seattle Thursday for a budget summit.

The economic turndown, prodded by the global financial slowdown/freeze/crack up that started with too many high-risk home loans, has hit cities where it hurts. Cities, and the state, don’t have income taxes, and largely depend on people buying and selling houses and flat screen TVs to pay for programs.

With less money flowing – except for stocks in tear gas, bottled water and firearms – cities will have less money to pay for street paving and beat cops, although Bozeman has said his budget proposal will not cut public safety services.

The summit will give mayors a chance to talk about different remedies to less robust revenues, Bozeman said.

As mentioned before, it comes after the administration presents its budget. So, it appears anything that is learned will not likely be much help in planning for 2009.

City councilmembers may be invited to attend – they weren’t as of last week – but reporters are only going to be allowed to observe discussions for two hours of the 5.5 hour meeting.

The city council will mull over the budget, expected to contain a heap of cuts to close an expected $4.4 million hole.

Here is the list of mayors, and others, expected to attend. Note that Port Orchard, Poulsbo and Bainbridge Island mayors have confirmed they will attend.
1.    Jane Christensen, Asst. to the Mayor        Redmond
2.    Jim Lauinger, Mayor                                  Kirkland
3.    Dennis Kendall, Mayor                              Marysville
4.    Linda Bird, Mayor                                      University Place
5.    Eric Faison, Govt. Affairs Manager            University Place
6.    Bud Norris, Mayor                                     Mount Vernon
7.    Alicia Huschka, Finance Director              Mount Vernon
8.    Ralph Shape, Mayor                                   Sea Tac
9.    Ava Frisinger, Mayor                                 Issaquah
10.    Jim Slowik, Mayor                                   Oak Harbor
11.    Doug Merriman, Finance Director           Oak Harbor
12.    Jim Pearman, Mayor                                Mercer Island
13.    Laure Iddings, Mayor                              Maple Valley
14.    Kathryn Quade, Mayor                            Poulsbo
15.    Lary Coppola, Mayor                              Port Orchard
16.    Karen Rogers, City Council, AWC Pres.   Port Angeles
17.    Jim Justin, AWC                                      AWC (Association of Washington Cities)
18.    Megan Owen, Governor’s Office            Governor’s Office
19.    Mary McClure, KRCC                              Kitsap Regional Coordinating Council
20.    Cary Bozeman, Mayor                            Bremerton
21.    Laura Lyon, Finance Director                 Bremerton
22.    PS Reilly                                                 Athena
23.    Athena Staff Person                               Athena
24.    Darlene Kordonowy, Mayor                    Bainbridge Island
25.    Choi Halladay, Asst. City Manager        City of Lakewood

Here is the agenda:

9:30 – 10:00  Check-in and networking

10:00 – 10:15 Welcome & Introductions

10:15 – 12:00 Identification and Discussion of Key Topics
• Growing Revenues In A Recessionary Economy
• Financial Risk Mitigation
• Balancing the Expenditure Budget
• Others as Identified

12:00 – 1:00 Working lunch discussion – Can Mayors Benefit from More Connection?

———————————–Press Arrives—————————————-

1:00 – 1:15  Morning Session Recap

1:15 – 2:45 Additional dialogue and calls to action

• Follow-on comments from morning topics
• Necessity Breeds Invention

2:45 – 3:00 Closing Comments

I like the warning line slashing through the agenda labeled “press arrives.” Might as well say, “flu arrives.”

And finally, here are the discussion suggestions:

Growing Revenues In A Recessionary Economy

Statewide initiatives have placed local governments in the position of needing perpetual economic growth to generate revenues to cover cost increases related to payroll and other ongoing expenditures related to the provision of core governmental operations.   What actions or ideas do you have to actually grow revenues in an economy that is receding?   Is constant economic growth (in an amount sufficient to cover inflation pressures) possible given Growth Management Act expectations and increasingly expensive energy resources?

Financial Risk Mitigation

City government’s core operational expenses (largely payroll and supporting supplies) are relatively stable and growing in nature – while revenues are often volatile due to changing economic conditions.   Volatility can happen year to year, month to month, and even within the month – in the short term having impacts on cash flow management  and in the long term having impact on the City’s ability to deliver core services (such as public safety).  What actions have you taken (or are considering) to reduce financial risk related to this volatility mismatch of City revenue sources to governmental operations expenditures?   What’s your assessment of how quickly you can substantially adjust course in your organization and do you have adequate financial reserves to give you time to make those changes?

Balancing the Expenditure Budget

Our citizens rightfully expect us to conduct City business in the most efficient manner possible.   There is a point however, when revenue and cost pressures far exceed any capacity for additional efficiency improvements to balance the budget – and outright reductions become necessary.   How do you balance the need to provide expected government services with the need to invest in growing your City’s future revenues (economic development)?   Does your organization have clear priorities of which services/programs are to be removed first or has the approach been one of more general across the board reductions?   If you have clear priorities – how did they get established?   By whom?    For those making service or program level reductions, how are you managing citizen expectations and communicating those changes?

Necessity Breeds Invention

Often, difficult times produce positive outcomes.   A financial crisis by its very nature creates change – some good – some painful.   It forces a review of operations and priorities that goes beyond the effort typically applied in more fortunate times.  What innovative approaches or solutions have emerged from your current budget balancing challenges?   Has your leadership team risen up to meet the challenge?