City begins belt tightening
Fewer cops on the street may be among the most difficult outcomes from a belt-tightening process underway in Edmonds.
Mayor Dave Earling, City Council members and city staff have all been working to cut city expenses during a time of declining revenues.
According to Earling’s proposed 2013 budget, a large saving will come from the Police Department.
Police will be cutting four positions from their roster, including an assistant chief, a sergeant and two officers.
The reductions will save the city an estimated $379,000 – although not without a loss of some level of service.
“We’re losing the street crimes unit,” Chief Al Compaan said. “They target burglary, prostitution, vehicle prowls, drug crimes and gang activity. This is quality of life stuff we’re losing.”
Since it’s inception about three years ago, the street crimes unit has made 396 arrests.
“This (unit) is very important to me,” Compaan said. “Am I hopeful that some time we can bring it back? Yes.”
Compaan said losing the unit is frustrating, but he understands that all departments have to “do their part.”
City officials are leaving no stone unturned in the search to trim costs.
Council voted unanimously Tuesday to authorize Mayor Earling to OK a change in medical insurers to the city.
The city plans to insure with United Health Care.
Carrie Hite, Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director, said the city had already cleared the change with the unions.
“The change will save the city $333,000,” Earling said. “It’s basically the same coverage.”
Another savings is the refinancing of bonds, covered in the Oct. 18 edition of the Edmonds Beacon. The city expected to save about $1.5 million.
“The totals actually ended up with us saving about $1.9 million (over 20 years),” Finance Director Shawn Hundstock said.
Another money saver for the city is the one-time Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP), which is taking voluntary early retirement of some city employees.
Employees taking advantage of the program can take a cash settlement, extra time on city medical insurance or a combination of the two. The exact numbers are dependant on time with the city and salary.
According to Earling, the payout is a one-time expense of $254,000, which is already budgeted for, but the savings is $575,491 per year.
“These are permanent staff reductions,” Earling said, “not a temporary layoff. These are pure savings every year.”
Earling said they’ve spent a lot of time with the different departments to make sure they can actually handle the additional workloads.