Highlights of the initial proposal of the 2021-22 biennial budget discussed at the Bainbridge City Council meeting Tuesday night included a Behavioral Health Navigator position to take the place of one police officer.
Also, a $2.5 million shortfall in the budget, most of it due to COVID-19, would lead to three staff cuts.
City Manager Morgan Smith and Deputy City Manager Ellen Schroer were the presenters of the budget, which is the financial plan for the next two years and expresses the city’s priorities and planned service delivery to the community, according to city documents.
The main topics of the rather lengthy proposal include financial context and capacity, highlights of the proposed budget choices, staffing related changes, and the process and schedule for council review.
Below is a general breakdown of each section from the presentation. For the complete budget proposal visit www.bainbridgewa.gov/DocumentCenter/View/14149/2021—-2022-Proposed-Budget—-Full-Document.
Financial context and capacity
The financial context shows a tax-supported revenue decrease of $2.5 million (roughly 10 percent) in 2020. The revenue forecast for the 2021-22 budget shows some recovery, but less capacity than the previous budget cycle. Utility revenues remain as planned.
The proposed budget requires the city to adjust recurring costs downward for things like a reduction in staffing and discretionary spending, while current funding levels expect to be maintained for community services to support increased needs. The proposal also recommended retaining future fiscal capacity to the degree feasible to support future decisions on transportation and climate change.
Proposed budget highlights
Highlights include responding to recurring revenue loss due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Details comprise of a forecast decrease of $2 million (9 percent), financial policies that require a corresponding reduction in recurring expenses, elimination of three regular positions, overall city staffing reduced by three FTE (full-time equivalent), and a reduced council contingency from $300,000 to $200,000 per year.
Responding to the elimination of transportation funds includes the elimination of $400,000 in annual funds due to Initiative 976, which limits motor vehicle taxes. The remaining $600,000 of the Transportation Fund balance will be used during 2021-22 and city leaders will need to plan for future revenue options (sales tax) or enact reductions.
Maintaining infrastructure investments consist of the capital improvement plans remaining robust, stewardship of assets help to reduce future repair costs, significant grant funds that will help to leverage city spending and increasing the backlog of utility repair costs.
Supporting community partners was another budget highlight. The proposed budget seeks to maintain current levels of community funding. Roughly $2 million in community funding in 2021-22 equates to four percent of all tax-supported revenue.
Supporting the Climate Action Plan was noted as the highest priority budget item from the council. The CAP identifies roughly 175 actions and the proposed budget includes $300,000 to support future CAP implementation tasks. A CAP presentation to the council is scheduled for October.
Another highly debated topic of late has been the potential adjustment of policing strategies. The budget outlines the creation of a Behavioral Health Navigator position, a dedicated city position in efforts to improve community outcomes. This position would coincide with the wind-down of the interlocal Navigator program.
The new position would integrate behavioral health, community engagement, victim advocacy, homelessness outreach, police training for de-escalation, mental health interventions, and diversity. It would shift from a reactive program to proactive services and would reduce police officer staffing by one FTE.
The last highlight was in regard to supporting diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The Race Equity Task Force Workplan is planned to become a standing committee by the end of the year. The proposed budget includes $100,000 to support the implementation of DEI initiatives.
Process for council review
Budget discussions from City Council will be held throughout October and November to address any potential changes. The next budget discussion will pick up Oct. 6.