Cooper - This is the great dilemma of cities and is an even more severe dilemma for counties. Solutions are to promote increased economic activity to bolster revenue, and to educate and ask voters to approve needed capital projects. The council must always be vigilant to support government efficiencies in matters of technologies and organization.
Gates - Jane Kirkemo recently gave a report to the city council that we have tapped $1.2 million in reserves to balance the 2010 budget. The Washington Center for the Performing Arts needs extensive repairs and the previous city council indebted citizens to pay for four new buildings: Olympia city hall, the Children's Museum, and the new fire station and training facility. The city should be congratulated on taking some steps to increase revenue such as increasing city utility rates, creating the Transportation Benefit District, using the I% utility tax for general rather than the capital facilities plan, and selective customer service reductions. One non·tax revenue source that Olympia needs to coordinate with neighboring jurisdictions is using impact fees allowed under the Growth Management Act to pay for certain services. The collection from this can be optimized by ensuring that the fees being charged are commensurate to the neighboring cities and the county and that they send the right signals for managing growth. We need to examine what core, essential services are, and make difficult cuts that do not risk public safety. The city allowed community members to rank their priorities. I, too, had to make difficult choices. Allowing community groups and citizens to pick up the slack could make community stronger and more integrated.
Gray - I would encourage holding off on all unnecessary capital expenditures until the city's finances are in a better condition. I would also encourage a more focused, careful analysis of traffic improvements. Some of the roundabout construction underway seems anticipatory to an extreme degree. I would recommend holding off on any further roundabout construction without concrete evidence of how this will improve traffic flow, as opposed to other alternatives such as improved signaling, left-turn lanes, etc. I don't have all the background information, but am not comfortable with the proposed "improvements" to the Black Lake Boulevard US 101 interchange changes being proposed. I don't see how this addresses the basic issues of traffic congestion in that area, which are, indeed a challenge. I am confused why the City would support additional development in the area west of Capital Mall without a satisfactory solution to the traffic problems in this arena. Regarding operating budget challenges, I don't have any immediate answers. This is a reflection of current economic climate. However, I do believe this might be a time that we ratchet down operating expenses incrementally across the board, rather than a zero-based budgeting approach. I don't believe we can sacrifice an important part of city services (such as parks, arts, community development) in favor of maintaining other areas such as fire, police and infrastructure. If the citizenry "feels the pain" across the board, then perhaps we can develop some sympathy for the totality of city services, and their importance to overall growth.
Langer - City tax revenues are not keeping up with inflation so that the city keeps falling behind more and more. This is a structural problem that needs to be resolved so that we can maintain the quality of life that we enjoy in Olympia. There are several ways to address these issues. We could run a ballot measure repealing Initiative 747 locally, since the citizens of Olympia rejected the Initiative by 60%. Also, I would advocate for annual efficiency studies to find more effective ways to spend taxpayer's money and make this a part of the city's corporate culture. The purpose of the efficiency studies would not be to ferret out "waste and abuse", although if there was waste and abuse, this process would find it. Instead, the focus would be on how to provide services "better and cheaper".
Lazar - This problem is mostly directly attributable to the current recession, and to passage of initiatives 695 and 747, and following legislation proposed by the Governors once those initiatives were found to be flawed. The loss of the MVET is costing the City over $1 million per year. The inability to track inflation in property taxes is costing the City over $4 million per ear. Restoration of these funds would allow restoration of services that have been curtailed. The City must improve efficiencies to reduce the cost of government. For example, having law enforcement divided among f departments (police, parking enforcement, building inspectors, and fire inspectors) is inefficient. At the same time, the City is not without revenue options. First and foremost, the voters could be asked to restore most of the funding lost to the initiatives. Code enforcement could work like parking enforcement: those who cause a need for enforcement action should be cited, and fines assessed. I believe the enterprise funds should contribute more support to the general fund, in recognition of the support they receive.
Richards - The Long Term Financial Strategy dictates that in response to a negative financial forecast we must: assess the situation, use reserves sparingly, reduce services, and think carefully when considering tax increases. The first step in my mind is to ask the public what services they feel are essential, and instead of cutting across the board, fund those core items. This way we are still maintaining a high level of service in those areas that the public prioritizes, while making cuts to less important services. We need to use reserves sparingly, and add to them whenever we can. Finally, any proposed tax increases needs to have public support.
Selby - After reading through the approved 2010 budget, I believe that the current Council members and staff addressed the projected revenue gap with the appropriate response. This involved making the tough decisions about funding priorities and seeking more efficiency in city programs and nonprofit organizations we support. It will take additional restraint and discipline as the economic outlook is projected to stagnate through 2012. I am a believer in turning adversity into innovation. This is the time to seek out creative funding sources from the state and federal government and devote these resources to high priority projects. Additionally, we need to tap into the passion and energy of special interest groups and neighborhood associations. It is amazing what can be accomplished, with modest means and pure volunteerism when you rally support for projects that lack funding. An added benefit is that all those involved will become stakeholders in the outcome. A case in point is the ODA led downtown clean ups held twice a year. This program costs nearly nothing and within a few years resulted in making a huge impact in city core. Those volunteers felt good about the achieved results plus more protective about keeping city clean
Smith - The City of Olympia is not facing this challenge alone; we need to do all we can to work toward efficiencies that can be shared by other local governments in community and take advantage of resources that can be leveraged through state and federal programs. We need to work together with business and developers to develop dependable revenue enhancement projects through comprehensive growth management. I am optimistic that although the financial resources are not available for everything we want, that by working together we can find the resources we need to keep communities safe, environment healthy and employers and businesses prosperous.
Thomas - First, I would attempt to look at the overall environment in which revenue is generated and spent. I would promote an atmosphere of shared responsibility for defining and prioritizing among city services. I would ask all Olympians to recognize that this is a time to adjust expectations. I would respect the challenge that confronts staff when faced with possible cuts or layoffs. I would encourage Olympians to shop within the city limits, to ensure that we receive as much retail sales revenue as possible. I would look for all means to increase revenue without putting a new burden on the taxpayer. Since many City fees are development related, I would try to create an environment in which development can occur while maintaining high standards for permitting, design and construction. In addition, I would encage use of an exercise like the one used by Governor Gregoire's Priorities in Government Program. This program engages leaders and constituents in defining: • results citizens expect from government • strategies that are most effective in achieving those results • priorities for spending to buy the activities that are most critical to implementing these strategies • methods to measure progress • linkages between performance and budgeting Capital improvements remain necessary to maintain infrastructure and the quality of City. I would emphasize a strong and transparent analysis of the short and long term costs and benefits before deciding on capital improvements. Discretionary, want·to-do projects must take a lower priority than must-do projects, such as making capital investments in order to achieve operational savings, and maintaining and enhancing the economic life of infrastructure.
Veldheer - The city must focus on funding vital city services that place public safety and citizen protection as a high priority. Continuity in Accounting practices must be standardized throughout city departments along with performance measures to ensure tax dollars are spent in an efficient and economical manner. Also, the impact of increased operating costs should be carefully considered before capital spending proposals are put out to the voters or approved by the City Council. The use of business case studies would also greatly aid decision making in the city, especially related to capitol spending. Also, public/private arrangements should include default clauses so that the property reverts back to the city if the developer fails to perform under their contract. Negotiations should ensure that risks are shared and that developers have the financial strength to complete the project.