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Proposed budget cuts spark ire

The city brought a balanced budget to the table Wednesday and caused a backlash from community members who renounced proposed funding cuts.

The budget balance was achieved through heavy trimming of service organizations such as Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council, the Downtown Association, the West Sound Wildlife Shelter and other community events.

Representatives of service organizations were in force at the meeting, trying to appeal to the City Council to reinstate funding.

During the special session, council members were able to save a proposed $25,000 reduction in earmarks for Health, Housing and Human Services in 2009 and again in 2010, calling such cuts irresponsible in a time of economic downturn.

But a bid to spare the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanity Council from a $40,000 cut in 2009 and a $94,000 cut in 2010 failed to gather the council votes necessary to reinstate funding.

“These projected reductions cut so deeply into our organization,” said Zon Eastes, the executive director of BIAHC. “We’re being asked to cut more deeply than any other department or agency. We understand these are tough economic times, but we don’t want to be treated unfairly.”

Susan Sivitz, Bainbridge Performing Arts’ managing director said cuts come at an tough time for service organizations.

“Every organization is already lean. Our donations are down, corporate sponsorships have dropped dramatically,” Sivitz said. “You take organizations that are already taking hits, then you are cutting it further.”

The 2010 reductions to BIAHC would result in a funding cut of 44.3 percent. The organization distributes funds earmarked by the city and council to a variety of nonprofit organizations.

Cuts were also leveled at the city’s water specialists and the U.S. Geological Survey, which will eventually allow the city to predict fluctuations in its aquifers so it can manage the island’s water resources. The program was saved through negotiations with the city administration.

According to Jayln Cummings, the city’s water specialist, cutting USGS would have been devastating as the ground water model is expected to be completed in April 2010.

The city will also do without $40,000 in City Hall maintenance and will halt a professional service contract for monitoring pavement degradation.

Another proposed cut involved contracts for updating the city’s municipal code. Those updates were supposed to be priorities of the city and were expected to reduce permitting times and litigation when completed in 2010.

“You are into cutting the priority work throughout the rest of these budget sessions,” Public Works Director Randy Witt said. “What you are seeing is a tradeoff in priorities.”

Some council members pointed out the increased financial strain and the fast approaching deadline for the council to approve a balanced budget that included recommended cuts.

“I think we all have to share in the cuts,” Councilor Kjell Stoknes said. “Primary services have been cut severely, right now I just want to get this budget balanced as soon as possible.”

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