WENATCHEE — Just three months after Mayor Frank Kuntz cut two firefighters, three police employees and nearly all the museum staff to save money, he is proposing a 2013 budget that hires new employees in other departments.
Kuntz gave City Council members on Thursday a preview of the budget he will unveil next week. With just over $20 million in general fund expenditures, the budget would add full-time employees in the planning department and finance department and three part-time parks employees.
“We’re starting to rebuild a little bit,” he said.
He said the city’s financial picture has changed since mid-year, when he made cuts in order to trim more than $1 million from the budget. He initially proposed laying off eight firefighters, three police officers and a records clerk and four of the five museum employees. He ultimately settled on a plan that included one layoff and two retirements in the police department, two retirements and a job share in the fire department and the loss of the four museum employees.
Since then, the Town Toyota Center debt was refinanced in September, and the city will no longer be paying large sums in legal bills and debt payments.
Kuntz said the job cuts were still necessary.
Kuntz said the city has been in need of a new employee in the finance department since the finance director resigned more than a year ago. Deanna McDaniel was recently promoted to the director position, and her position will be backfilled with a new hire next year.
He said the planning department also needs someone to oversee grants so that Monica Libbey can go back to being a planner.
He added that the parks department has gone without part-time maintenance workers for three years, “and our parks show it.”
“With all of these hires we’re just trying to do essential government work,” he said.
If the city’s financial situation continues to improve in the coming years, Kuntz said he will ask the City Council to consider hiring back more employees in the street, planning and maintenance departments. If police officers agree to pay more for their medical benefits, he may also recommend hiring more officers.
But he said he believes the fire department is still overstaffed by one person. He hopes to achieve one more reduction in that department, but said he will wait for a retirement or resignation.
He said the 2013 budget is about the same as the adjusted 2012 budget after his staff cuts. He is also estimating sales tax revenues very conservatively, he said, “so I don’t have to do what I had to do this year again.”
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152