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Bremerton's proposed budget calls for cuts to fill $4.4 million gap

Bremerton City Council members have a bit of light reading to do in the coming weeks.

Mayor Cary Bozeman and Finance Director Laura Lyon presented the proposed 2009 city budget to council members Wednesday night.

City council members and Lyon will spend the next several weeks reading through and discussing the large binder filled with pages and pages of information pertaining to the proposed budget.

The proposed budget will fill an expected $4.4 million budget deficit in 2009 in a variety of ways, including cutting four city employees, enacting a mandatory 2 percent reduction in fuel consumption and raising property taxes by the 1 percent allowed by law.

Bozeman said “we are definitely in a recession” and it may take a year or two to come out of it.

“We’re not exempt from what’s going on in our world,” Bozeman said.

He said the proposed 2009 budget is “a budget for the time we live in today” and city officials who put the budget together did their best to minimize the impact to citizens.

The proposed budget cuts 11 positions paid by the general fund, seven of which are currently vacant, which means four city employees would be cut if the budget passes.

The budget also calls for city officials to delay purchasing new vehicles, equipment and computers for a year.

The proposed budget also calls for a mandatory reduction of fuel consumption by 2 percent.

“We think that’s more than reasonable,” Lyon said. “This budget doesn’t declare how, it just says we will reduce our consumption.”

Lyon said the budget also calls for a 1 percent increase in property taxes and increasing payments city-owned utilities make to the general fund.

The budget also has some direct impact on Bremerton citizens. Proposed changes include cutting back hours at the Glenn Jarstad Aquatic Center and stopping street paving.

The proposal also adds some positions to the fire and police departments, but Lyon said the positions are either paid for by the EMS levy approved by voters in August or account for cost savings.

Lyon recommended city council members approve further cost-saving measures to give the budget a little more “financial flexibility” in the future.

She recommended a voluntary program where city employees “separate” from the city, quit or retire early. They will still receive a severance package. Lyon also proposed employees reduce their work week by eight hours.

Bozeman said the proposed budget shows that Bremerton is “adapting to the financial world we live in today.”

Lyon and city council members will meet in budget workshops for the next several weeks to further delve into the proposal.

Public hearings will begin in November with the final hearing scheduled for Dec. 3.

The proposed 2009 budget is available for viewing on the city of Bremerton’s Web site at www.ci.bremerton.wa.us.

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