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Mayor presents 2012 Preliminary Budget to Council and community

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Bellingham Mayor Dan Pike presented his Preliminary 2012 Budget to the City Council and the community today (Monday, Oct. 3, 2011), emphasizing the emerging recovery of our local economy and the City's work to retain its financial health.

Pike's 2012 Preliminary Budget presentation launches the annual budget deliberation process, which will extend into December as the Council reviews and deliberates on the Mayor's proposal, seeks public feedback, and adopts a final budget before year end.

"In the end, it is a budget that is the right size for the financial day we expect to be living in next year," Pike said in his presentation to Council this afternoon. "Most important, it safeguards our essentials, takes additional steps at some re-organizations within select departments, and allows us to keep pace with most of our physical assets."

Pike was cautiously optimistic in his remarks, noting many signs of local economic recovery but reminding Council to be financially vigilant.

"Bellingham is strong," he said. "We stand today on the accomplishments of many, across all sectors, and as a community we have momentum for the future."

But he cautioned that while we can breathe easier, difficult decisions remain.

"We need to keep celebrating our strengths and achievements, but any expenditures we make beyond core operations need to be strategic steps toward long-term sustainability of this organization."

Pike encouraged Council to join him in resisting "the temptation to run through the proverbial candy store filling our arms with goodies" and supporting the creation of a plan for sustainable government operations, "so we don’t have to relive the past few years' financial pain in the future."

The 2012 Preliminary Budget calls for $215 million total spending, $64.8 million of it in the General Fund. It does not propose using General Fund reserves or rely on multiple employee layoffs, though it does eliminate several vacant positions and makes many further reductions throughout City government.

He proposes incurring a 1% property tax increase, with the effect to taxpayers completely offset by the reduction in property taxes accomplished by the retirement of debt on the Deemer Road Fire Station.

Pike said the budget he proposes "takes us back to fully living within our means without the use of General Fund reserves," adding that most of the City's reserve accounts are well within Council-established targets, despite some usage over the past three years.

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Date Published: Oct 4, 2011

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