The Sunnyside City Council continues to work on its budget for next year. I made these comments during the budget meeting held on Thursday night. Work continues and a final budget has not yet been adopted.
1. An increase in pay for the city manager position is justified. Looking at the position and not who is occupying the chair, a city our size needs to pay the city manager more than what we are currently doing.
Our budget needs to reflect this. Our city manager needs to be paid more than patrol officers and department heads within the city.
This is not a proposed increase in pay for Mr. Sweet. He is under contract as interim city manager. There will be no change in pay for him unless council approves changes to his contract.
2. It has been pointed out that the city’s budget problems have been looming for several months. Previous city administrators were only willing to propose increases in taxes and fees when I first got on council in order to fix our budget problems.
I will not support a budget that simply increases taxes. We can not take more money from citizens, without first looking for ways to serve taxpayers with greater efficiency. The current city manager is willing to make necessary changes to improve services to the public. His proposals reorganize job descriptions, and also give us options to make cuts, before imposing tax increases on our citizens.
Although I do not agree with all of the recommendations, they are welcome and appreciated. It gives us some options and places to start our conversation on ways to balance our budget.
3. Municipal jobs are not lifetime appointments. When the tax base is flat or down in a stagnant economy, and expenses are up due to union contracted pay raises, and increasing cost of benefits, we have to make organizational changes.
Sometimes this means cutting numbers of personnel.
No one desires to do this, however, it may become a necessary business decision for the good of the community.
Increases of revenue also need to be considered. While few desire to pay more in taxes, we need to find ways to pay for services voters have approved.
4. City employees should consider their job descriptions to include “additional duties as assigned.” In other words, be flexible, and willing to take on tasks traditionally performed by others when the city had more employees. In many cases, staff are already doing this. Greater flexibility across all departments will make these painful budget decisions easier to get through.
Bargaining units have shown a willingness to be flexible by bringing new proposals to council for consideration. These ideas give council some more options, and may help us find solutions.
5. The police are doing a great job. I recently had conversations with an attorney from the prosecutor’s office, and with a defense attorney in Yakima County. While they sometimes are representing different interests before the same judge, they both complimented Sunnyside for the crime free rental housing ordinance, and other initiatives the Sunnyside Police Department is using. They both noted these new tactics are very effective in reducing violent crime in our city. We are fortunate that we have not had a shooting in our city since March. Compared to where we were just a few years ago, this is nothing short of remarkable.
6. Finally, I can not stress enough the importance of providing for public safety. Budget proposals made by the city manager ensure that the public will continue to see the same level of patrol officers on our streets. We are not cutting boots on the ground in our fight against violent criminals. The public will continue to see a large police presence in our city.
The kind of city I want to live in has large numbers of police officers on patrol, with a crime rate so low that people question why we have so many police officers. I am perfectly happy to have Sunnyside be that peaceful place.