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Budget tinkering could affect city police department

Federal Way’s police department could see some of the biggest changes after officials finish tweaking the 2002 budget.

In the past year, the city police department – which accounts for about 19 percent of Federal Way’s roughly $79.9 million annual budget, or $15.1 million – could be further streamlined to put more officers on the street and to boost the department’s once-slumping morale. The cost of policing the city has continued to rise, and personnel have been added.

In 1998, the department’s budget was just $12 million with the equivalent of 134 full-time staffers. That full-time equivalency bumps up to 142.5 on staff next year, according to the existing biennial budget.

In the past year, officers have been formed into squads and placed on four 10-hour shifts rather than five, eight-hour shifts. The moves reduce shift changes, which means officers should spend more time on patrol and less time switching gears.

Some leadership posts also have been suggested for elimination to streamline the department.

Anne Kirkpatrick, the city’s director of public safety, was unavailable for comment before press time. Police Spokesman Kurt Schwan also had not returned calls.

However, assistant City Manager Derek Matheson said the city was looking at a fairly standard mid-biennium budget, with some adjustments expected to be made to revenues and expenditures.

After a public hearing Tuesday night, which was after press time, the City of Federal Way moves on with its budget adjustments and planning for next year in a second public hearing at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Tuesday’s public hearing was preceded by a study session in which city department directors presented budget requests to the council. Matheson said he could not release any details before the hearing, when the council reviewed the proposals.

He did say one major source of city revenue that will be affected is sales tax. Federal Way gets back 1-percent of the total sales tax in the city – currently an 8.6 percent rate. But sales figures were expected to show economic potholes in the retail sector in recent months, which could cause the council to lower its revenue expectations.

Another major X-factor is Initiative 747 on the Nov. 6 General Election ballot. The initiative would cap property taxes based on the rate of inflation or increases of 1 percent annually, whichever is less.

Iwen Wang, the city’s management services director, spoke on the potential impact of the initiative at an Oct. 3 committee meeting. Wang said the typical inflation rate is about 3 percent, but is 3.9 percent this year.

“It will place a significant cut in city revenue,” Wang told the council’s finance and economic development committee. If passed, she said the city could lose $1 million annually. But losses could mount over time, Wang said. Property tax revenue comprises about one-third of city revenue.

“In the longer term, this will be more significant,” she said.

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