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Budget report: No police layoffs in Federal Way for two years

City manager Brian Wilson has asked the Federal Way City Council to use one-time monies to pay police salaries and avoid law enforcement layoffs in the next two years.

Wilson made his request Tuesday at the city council meeting, where he presented his latest budget proposal. The document differs from that drafted by Wilson and made public in August. That proposal aimed to close the city's $9 million 2011-2012 budget gap and set up a structure to ensure a healthy long-term (six-year) budget. It was based on the council's desire to adopt a budget model that avoided relying on funds provided on a one-time basis — for example, funds left over when a capital project is bid lower than expected — to pay for long-term ongoing costs such as reoccurring programs or staff positions. The council has since given Wilson the go-ahead to focus on balancing just the biennial budget, given the current economy and the effects that several initiatives on the November general election ballot could have on the city, Wilson said.

The most recent budget proposal presents a balanced biennial budget that takes into consideration council and public feedback.

"My goal was to be balanced but also responsive," Wilson said.

Wilson's recommendation to use one-time funds to sidestep police layoffs was directly influenced by public feedback. In several budget presentations throughout September, Federal Way residents told the city manager that laying off police is unacceptable.

"That feedback has been overwhelming in terms of people being concerned about not cutting police officers," Wilson said.

Wilson's first budget proposal called for the layoffs of 18 commissioned officers by 2012’s end. Layoffs were to come in three phases. Following the adoption of the final budget in December, five positions would have immediately been eliminated. Seven positions would have been funded through 2011, but cut come 2012. Funding for six other positions would have been provided through the end of 2012, at which point, officers in those positions would have been laid off.

If the council adopts Wilson's current budget proposal as is, no commissioned officers will be demoted or laid off through 2012. However, there is only enough one-time funding to save the 18 positions for two years. If revenue streams do not improve by 2012's end, 12 police officers could be cut going into 2013. If revenues do increase, the officers will remain on duty.

The $4.33 million one-time funding needed to temporarily save the police positions will come from a combination of sources. From the Pacific Highway South HOV Lanes Phase Four project, there is $2.3 million available savings. Another $1.5 million is left over from transportation capital projects that were bid at a price lower than that the city expected. From the arterial streets overlay program, Wilson is proposing $1.2 million ($600,000 per year) be redirected elsewhere. Lastly, the city anticipates roughly $375,000, of an estimated $800,000 total, in red light photo enforcement revenue could be available on a one-time basis.

The city council will deliberate the budget throughout November. The group may choose to accept Wilson's current proposal or alter it before adopting a final version on Dec. 7.

Check it out

To learn more about the proposed budget or to view budget documents visit www.cityoffederalway.com/Page.aspx?page=2248.

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