On Tuesday, October 2nd, Tacoma City Manager T.C. Broadnax presented an overview of the 2013/14 budget to the City Council. While the presentation focused on an overview of the budget, there were a number of significant changes unveiled.
While the number that most people were waiting for was the staff reductions, there were structural changes proposed as well. On the staff side, Broadnax proposed reductions totaling 217 FTEs, 153 of which are currently filled positions. The city will continue to look into accommodating these reductions through retirements and other people choosing to leave the City. Unfortunately, these vacancies are unlikely to total the number of needed positions.
Staff reductions will drive the reduction in the budget, however those remaining staff will see a restoration of some benefits lost during the prior round of cuts. The proposal by the City Manager does not include cost of living adjustments for non-represented employees but does include step increases, a restoration of the roughly 9% pay reductions from 2012, previously agreed to salary adjustments for represented employees, and continuation of health coverage with anticipated cost increases of 12% per year in 2013 and 2014.
The positions being eliminated are being spread through the city departments. While some departments had the size of the personnel reductions identified in the presentation and others did not, all departments would be reviewed in greater detail at a series of eight Council budget workshops over the next month. While the personnel changes will have a direct impact on the ability of the City to provide services, many of the structural changes have the potential to impact the city for years to come as they become institutionalized.
The City has created three new departments to better address community concerns. This includes the new Environmental Services Department containing only the ratepayer supported utilities of the City not already under Tacoma Public Utilities. In addition, the current and long range planning services like development review and comprehensive planning are being pulled out of Community and Economic Development to create a separate Planning & Development Services Department. Additionally, Community Based Services and Human Services are being combined under a Neighborhood and Community Services umbrella. Other departments are also seeing name changes to better reflect their refocus. One example is the shift of "Community Relations" becoming "Media and Communications."
While cuts are one part of the proposal, the City Manager is also proposing to increase revenues through the implementation of a new $20 car tab fee as well as a $5.5M tax on non-profit healthcare facilities like hospitals.
Over the next few months, the Chamber will continue to track the City budget and offer opportunities for input to our members. If you have any thoughts on the budget, please don't hesitate to contact your Chamber staff.