Another November, another bleak budget for the city of Wenatchee. News reports quote Mayor Frank Kuntz: “I’m trying to put together a 2014 budget with 2004 revenues. If your costs keep going up and your revenues remain flat, every year you’re going to have to get rid of two or three more people.”
This is sad but true. Kuntz took the executive position of a city whose leaders had spent the previous decade kicking every can they could find as far down the road as they could. The result was not a day of reckoning, but an era of reckoning. It is not yet finished.
Kuntz described the ongoing struggle to the City Council. The $20 million general fund is still out of balance by $216,000. The street maintenance fund is out of balance by $275,000. This will mean the elimination of three more city positions, including a police officer. An officer who resigned last year may not be replaced.
This budget crisis may pale in comparison to the turmoil a year ago in the wake of the Town Toyota Center debacle, when layoffs loomed in droves. But still, with weak tax revenues offering little hope, Wenatchee’s city government appears to be managing its own slow-but-steady degradation.
It is time to take stock. The city government has made a reasonable effort to remain connected to the public and get outside of city hall, but this could be the time for serious public discussion about what kind of city Wenatchee would like to become.
Who has a stake in this? Many of us, very seriously. How do we stabilize this situation, stem the flow of revenue-generating business outside the city limits, cease the budgetary erosion? How can we once again build for the future rather that argue over our regrets? How do we remain a first-class city with a first-class government and services? That is always worth discussing.
This is the opinion of The Wenatchee World and its Editorial Board: Publisher Rufus Woods, Editor Cal FitzSimmons and Editorial Page Editor Tracy Warner.