What do you get out of the second floor?
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:20 PM
"You could say they put the bureau in bureaucracy.That's because the city's executive and finance departments exist in a nebulous area of public service in which, for the average citizen, not much readily apparent is done.Storm drains overflow in your neighborhood? Call public works. Building permit take too long? Gripe about the planning department. Get a speeding ticket? Hate the cops.But what do taxpayers get for their buck from the second floor of city hall?We're sort of a court of last resort, said Mayor Dwight Sutton, reflecting on public perception of his office. When things go sideways in other departments, folks end up here.Is there an analogy of us running around behind the scenes squirting oil (into the city gears)? I don't know.The executive department's proposed budget for next year shows a spending increase of 19 percent to $1.97 million, much of it in staff raises under the collective bargaining agreement and making a half-time secretary position full-time.Down the hall in the finance department, new accounting and computer needs drive a proposed modest increase.Executive Paradoxically, it is the executive department's budget that invariably inspires the most public comment each year.That's because all line items for social services fall under the mayor's umbrella - all of it discretionary spending. Among the new costs proposed for next year is a beefing up of the city's commitment to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund by $150,000, to $225,000 total. Also on tap are a half-time director for the Health, Housing and Human Service Council, at $32,305.The city is also seeing new costs - $29,946 for 2001 - to prop up the Kitsap County Health District, a direct result of other funding cuts caused by last year's Initiative 695. The district maintains health clinic services at the Commons, performs water-quality testing for the city and other local systems, and a variety of other services. Other items of note from the preliminary budget:Communications: The mayor is proposing $21,400 in new spending for communication with citizens. Among the plans are two island-wide mailings; taping of 24 Before the Council programs on local cable television; taping of four presentations or projects that come up over the course of the year, like the Pedestrian Road Show or other events.Sutton cited the Winslow Way East reconstruction project - in which two city council members took to leafletting morning ferry commuters, because of the inadequate notice - as illustrative of the need for better communication with citizens.Derelict boat removal: An allocation of $10,000 would support disposal of derelict vessels from local waterways, continuing a program already under the auspices of the harbor master.FinanceAn internal accounting change that moves leases under the finance umbrella balloons the department's projected spending somewhat; most new costs for 2001 would come in the area of number-crunching and record-keeping.Accounting: New state accounting standards - which Finance Director Ralph Eells sourly described as an unfunded mandate - have resulted in the need for a half-time accountant. Cost: $29,115 each year for 2001 and 2002. Among the new requirements: identifying and valuing all of the island's public roads, and setting up a depreciation table.Emergency communications: The city would like to see the installation of eight antennas atop the new city hall building, to handle communications amongst police, fire and other agencies. The building has been designated as the Emergency Operations Center; without the new equipment, earthquake communications would continue to be handled at the Phelps Road fire hall.Data backup and software enhancements: The department is seeking a $25,000 computer upgrade to handle new demands for data storage - public documents, permits and the like - that come with the move to digital record-keeping. Another $10,000 is sought for customization of the software used to track planning and building permits.All of which is supported, indirectly, by $40,000 in the mayor's budget, a commitment to legal services for the city's challenge to Initiative 722. The initiative, if upheld, could cost the $4.5 million next year.We're trying to keep our nose above water, Eells said. All this stuff with (initiative sponsor) Tim Eyman is making life in government really tough. Which I expect is what he intended.Saturday: the public works department "