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Budget cuts: Federal Way stands to lose 18 police officers

City manager Brian Wilson released his proposed 2011-2012 budget Tuesday, and it's not pretty.

Wilson is recommending cutting 39.58 full-time filled staff positions. Layoffs are necessary to close Federal Way's $9 million (approximately $4.5 million per year) gap and balance the budget. Alhough this will be the third round of layoffs in City Hall over the past 18 months, they are favored over wage decreases. Layoffs don't require collective bargaining, and Federal Way already pays middle-of-the-road wages compared to its peers, Wilson said. Lowering wages could drive skilled staff away.

"If we’re running really lean, I need to have the best people in those positions," Wilson said.

Wilson's proposed budget is in draft form. It could undergo changes based on public and city council feedback before a final version is adopted in December. However, the council could choose to adopt it as-is.

Here's what the scenario will look like in a perfect storm situation, where Wilson's proposed budget is adopted, the economy is slow to recover and revenues remain low. Layoffs will occur in nearly all departments. Public safety, the mayor's office and community development will see the most staff decreases.

"The idea here is, there’s cuts across the board," Wilson said.

Public safety

The police department will feel the biggest squeeze. The 136-person staff stands to lose 18 officers by 2012’s end. Layoffs will occur in three phases. Following the adoption of the final budget, five positions will immediately be eliminated. Seven positions will be funded through 2011, but will be vacated come 2012. Funding for six other positions will be provided through the end of 2012, at which point, officers in those positions will be laid off.

The positions cut will not be those associated with Proposition 1, Wilson said. In 2006, voters approved the 1.75 percent utility tax increase to fund 18 specific police positions. In the past, utility taxes were strong and the city collected more than enough revenue to pay for those positions, Wilson said. But now, utility tax revenue is decreasing, due mostly to the economy. Proposition 1 monies no longer cover the expenditures incurred by the 18 positions. Nevertheless, those publicly approved positions will stay and layoffs will occur elsewhere within the department.

A worst case scenario in which all 18 officers are laid off will dramatically affect police services. The bicycle unit, which was created in October to patrol the downtown and transit center, will cease to exist. Police's ability to secure parks and trails will be reduced. Thefts from vehicles are likely to jump, and any theft under $5,000 will not be investigated, according to Wilson's budget. Police's ability to respond to traffic complaints and investigate major traffic accidents will be decreased. Burglary investigations could be reduced, while commercial burglary investigations will not be done. Police's ability to investigate auto theft, identification theft and fraud cases will be reduced. Investigations of quality of life crimes — prostitution, drug crimes, gang activity and youth violence — will be reduced.

Funding options

The outlook is grim, but positions could still be saved. The city council has the option of using one-time funding — for example, excess money saved from capital projects — to temporarily fund positions. New or increased revenue streams could also help avoid layoffs. Additionally, the city hopes to land a COPS grant next month. This would fund four police officers for three years.

Proposing to cut police is not an easy decision for Wilson, who is also Federal Way's police chief. He is aware the public does not want to see police go. But the department accounts for 58 percent of Federal Way's total expenditures. A balanced budget is not a realistic goal without police cuts, he said. When possible, public safety will be given top priority when it comes to one-time funding and grant monies, Wilson said.

"The priority is going to be keeping officers on the street and detectives in the field," he said.

Communication and economic development

Beyond public safety, the mayor’s office and community development will also be hit hard. The layoffs will impact communication and economic development. Non-police layoffs will take place at 2010's conclusion.

Under the proposed budget, the mayor’s office stands to lose 3.63 of its 9.63 positions. The city’s Channel 21 cable station will discontinue. The city spokesperson will go, and department heads will take the lead in speaking on behalf of the city. The mayor and his staff will be left to manage state and federal lobbying contracts.

The community development department faces cuts of 7.40 positions. An associate planner, building inspector, code compliance officer, volunteer and neighborhood coordinator and the Korean and Hispanic liaison positions are among those in jeopardy. The layoffs will result in a lengthier review and inspection process for development. Additionally, each department will be responsible for language translation when needed.

The budget is not final until approved by the city council in December. Wilson and council members will discuss it until that time. Several public meetings have been scheduled.

"Nothing’s finalized," Wilson said.

FYI

Police records show that though Federal Way’s crime rate has been reduced in the past 10 of 13 years, the number of index crimes committed in the city is on the rise. In 2008, 4,885 index crimes — homicide, rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary, larceny/theft, auto theft and arson — were reported, according to the records. In 2009, this number rose to 4,915. As of April 30, there had been 1,682 index crimes reported in 2010.

Check it out

Review the budget cuts in full at www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?page=2248.

Proposed layoffs

• Deputy city clerk

• Economic development assistant

• Communications and government affairs manager

• Communications specialist

• IT Tech 1

• IT Tech 1

• IT Director

• IT Tech II

• Office Technician II

• Associate Planner

• Development Specialist

• Inspection/Plans Examiner

• Code Compliance Officer

• Assistant Building Official

• Volunteer and Neighborhood Program Coordinator

• Korean Community Liaison

• Hispanic Community Liaison

• Administrative Assistant I

• Finance Analyst 1

• Administrative Assistant 1

• Parks Maintenance Worker 1

• Parks Maintenance Worker 1

• Parks and Facilities Supervisor

• Administrative Assistant 1

• Senior Traffic Engineer (could be grant funded on a one-time basis for 2011)

• Senior Traffic Engineer (could be grant funded on a one-time basis for 2011)

• Legal Assistant

• Legal Assistant

• Court Clerk 1

• Crime Analyst/Prevention Specialist

• Quartermaster/Jail Liaison

• Records Specialist

• Police Commander

• Police Lieutenant

• 18 Police Officers

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