Bellevue may use reserves to avoid more cuts
In the face of a budget shortfall, Bellevue city leaders are poised to tap into the city's reserves to avoid cuts to street lighting and funding for citywide events like the Bellevue Jazz Festival. But the City Council, which will vote on its budget Monday night, also is likely to approve some layoffs to meet its $10 million budget gap for 2011-12. The council also is expected to approve $100 million more in cuts to its seven-year capital budget, which pays for infrastructure such as roads.
Seattle Times Eastside reporter
In the face of a budget shortfall, Bellevue city leaders are poised to tap into the city's reserves to avoid cuts to street lighting and funding for citywide events like the Bellevue Jazz Festival.
But the City Council, which will vote on its budget Monday night, also is likely to approve some layoffs to meet its $10 million budget gap for 2011-12. The council also is expected to approve $100 million more in cuts to its seven-year capital budget, which pays for infrastructure such as roads.
The council already has agreed to borrow close to $400,000 from its rainy-day reserve to help pay for the lighting and events.
When it hammers out the final details Monday night, it could end up borrowing an additional $500,000 to ensure the $150 million budget includes funding for two motorcycle police officers and an aid car.
"That's pretty unusual for us to go quite that deep," said Mayor Don Davidson. "It isn't something we really like to do."
Like other municipalities, the city is grappling with declining revenues. The capital budget, paid for with sales and business-and-occupation taxes, was hit particularly hard.
The council rejected a proposal from City Manager Steve Sarkozy to create residential-parking zones and charging for permits, part of a plan to ease concerns about spillover parking in neighborhoods. The council also decided against a proposal to save money by reducing street lighting on weekends in nonresidential areas. Davidson said he was worried about the city's legal responsibility if someone got into an accident but the area wasn't lit or was lit poorly.
Other community services will be cut. The city plans to reduce janitorial service at community centers from seven to five days per week, limit restroom hours at neighborhood parks, and cut hours at community centers that the city said don't bring in revenue on weekends.
"Obviously they're used and they're all very popular," said Robin Haaseth, spokeswoman for the city's Parks and Community Services. "When people are most likely to use them, we worked to keep them open."
The city had to cut into services that people are used to, Davidson said, but the council tried to compromise.
"We didn't want to cut anybody completely off," he said.
The council also delayed some work on Northeast 15th Street, a new road in the Bel-Red corridor, a neighborhood slated for major redevelopment that revolves around light-rail stations.
The council decided to pay for a long-awaited multiuse path on West Lake Sammamish and improve 145th Place Southeast with a center turn lane, sidewalks and bike lanes between Southeast 16th and 24th streets.
"We really need to live up to our long-standing commitments to transportation projects," said Councilmember Claudia Balducci during budget discussions.
The council will face more budgeting difficulties next year with light rail, once Sound Transit decides on a final route in Bellevue and negotiations are worked out about how to pay for a downtown tunnel, Davidson said.
"Two years out we've still got issues," he said. "When we know what the East Link is going to do and when we know what the economy looks like, whether we're getting economic growth or not, those will be a little clearer, I hope."
Nicole Tsong: 206-464-2150 or email@example.com
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