By Jim Ferrell, Mayor of Federal Way
Before the calendar even turned to 2020, the sheer number combination of the year felt momentous. Historic things were going to happen in 2020. That happened indeed – but not quite in the manner anyone predicted!
Residents from all walks of life across our city know full well the damage the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic has left in its wake. The circumstances caused by the pandemic have put a tremendous strain on individual households, local businesses, and even city governments all across the state. Our regional partners have suffered unprecedented layoffs and budget deficits – even cutbacks in essential services.
We as a City have not been immune to impacts from the pandemic, but strategic budgetary decisions made several years prior have helped soften the blow. Those moves include the departure from the SCORE Jail contract (resulting in $2 million in savings), the Water and Sewer tax judgement (resulting in $1 million in ongoing revenue), the Utility tax on Solid Waste and Recycling Services, as well as wise debt management.
With that in mind, I unveiled my proposed 2021-22 biennal budget last week, with an emphasis on public safety and maintaining a clean and litter-free city, while continuing to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.
My proposed 2021-22 biennial budget, which is structurally balanced, also avoids any layoffs of City staff, maintains the current level of service, fully funds most reserve accounts, invests in key Information Technology infrastructure, and allocates funding for improvements to the Community Center and Dumas Bay Centre. This proposed budget is one that reflects many of the priorities that I have continued to focus on throughout my six years as mayor.
On the public safety side, the proposed budget adequately funds the Police Department to respond to the current needs of our community, adds three officers to bring the total number on the force to 137 (a historic high!), and provides ample funding for Jail Services. Providing for the safety of our residents and their property is our number one priority!
The proposed budget also puts a focus on city beautification, providing ongoing funds to maintain two full-time positions dedicated to cleaning up litter throughout the city, as well as funds to add a graffiti technician to address other blight issues. We must keep our city clean and litter free!
Funding was also allocated in our recent budget amendment for the “Eyes on Federal Way” customer service app, which was rolled out during the State of the City Address in February and will be released later this year. This app is another tool we will utilize to help residents notify the City of any garbage and litter that needs to cleaned up.
For the last nearly eight years, we’ve talked about updating and modernizing our Steel Lake Maintenance Facility. This budget features funding for a new shop facility study and design as well as funds to repair the buildings we currently occupy.
I often use the phrase “We work for you.” We have many skilled and talented individuals here at City Hall who do that every day. Their institutional knowledge of the city and the processes that go with keeping it operating at a high level are instrumental in our ability to deliver services. That is why I’m including in my proposed budget a 3-percent Cost of Living increase for non-represented employees. Our employees went six years without a COLA prior to me becoming mayor. We must keep up with the market and keep good employees in the fold.
There are other strategic funding proposals in my proposed budget that will directly positively impact our residents. We’re replacing various water heaters at the Community Center and repaving the parking lot at Lakota Park (Parks). We’re adding two Surface Water Management positions and acquiring a vacuum vector truck (paid for with SWM funds) in Public Works.
We’re continuing to create something special in Federal Way – and I refuse to let the pandemic derail that vision. My proposed 2021-22 biennial budget is a blueprint for my policy partners on the City Council to begin discussions. I look forward to the budget process and ultimately delivering a final
product that meets the needs of our residents in a fiscally-responsible manner.
I’d encourage you to get involved in the budget process. Whether that means making a public comment at our many meetings over the next few months or emailing me or the City Council, be sure to make your voice heard during this process. We look forward to hearing from you!