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Bellevue Fire, Police Positions Lost in City Budget Cuts

Cuts also will be made to arts funding in order for the city to meet a $6.5 million general fund budget gap.

Seventeen full-time equivalent positions -- including six involving layoffs or voluntary separations or voluntary retirements, and some part-time positions -- will be lost after the Bellevue City Council approved a state-required mid-biennium review of the city’s 2011-2012 budget, which includes the general fund.

The rest of the positions cut involved vacant positions and partial reductions, according to budget documents. The city also plans to cut $27,500 from its support of the arts, but will continue to support arts funding by $40,000, according to the budget documents.

Among the positions that will be lost include a detective and captain in the Bellevue Police Department; a vacant fire prevention officer position and an administrative lieutentant position in the Bellevue Fire Department; administrative assistants in the Parks and the Planning and Community Development departments.

The city faces a $6.5 million general fund budget gap, which city manager Steve Sarkozy told council members was due to the sluggish economy. 

To meet the shortfall, the city implemented the emergency transportation fees (ambulance fees), which will bring in $1 million; refund $800,000 from internal service funds to the general fund, and reduce spending by $4.6 million, according to the city.

According to the city, despite those actions, the city remains about $1.6 million short of balancing the budget. Sarkozy said that cutbacks will be required in 2012 and has proposed a list of additional staff reductions that include: a Senior Land Use Planner (DSD); four bicycle patrol officers; and eight firefighters.

The Police and Fire positions are not expected to involve any layoffs, according to the city.  

The proposed reductions for 2012 come in addition to cuts made last year when the city reduced its workforce by 49 positions and cut $16 million from its budget.

The council also approved an emergency medical services fee for taking “basic life support” patients to hospitals by ambulance, which is similar to practices in other local cities, according to Bellevue officials.

Some of the budget changes will include a new fee, but no new utility tax rate hike.

The new transport fee will be $600 plus $14 per mile for patients with less serious ailments. The vote was 5-2 with Councilmembers Grant Degginger and John Chelminiak voting against the ordinance. The new fee will bolster the budget by $1 million.

But the council declined to act on a proposal to raise utility tax rates, according to the city.

While the levy does not increase the levy base amount collected from Bellevue property owners, there is a 1.1 percent overall increase over 2011 because of new construction and technical adjustments, according to the city. The assessed value of Bellevue went down from $32.1 billion in 2011 to $31 billion in 2012.

However, the total property tax rate will be $1.19 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2012, a slight increase in rate of $1.14 per $1,000 of assessed value in 2011. 

The owner of an average Bellevue home, with an estimated value of $546,000, will pay a total of $650 in property taxes to the city (which doesn't include taxes paid to Washington state and other taxing districts like the Bellevue School District) which would be an increase of about $28 for a homeowner whose assessment stayed the same in 2012 as it did in 2011.

-- Information from the and Bellevue Patch archives

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