Nathan West, director of Community and Economic Development for the city of Port Angeles, addresses the City Council on Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Nathan West, director of Community and Economic Development for the city of Port Angeles, addresses the City Council on Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles city begins to consider possible cuts; exercise aimed at being prepared if needed, officials say

PORT ANGELES — City of Port Angeles department heads each have presented the City Council with cuts they could make if necessary, but stressed their departments are already overworked and actually need more resources.

During the priority setting session Tuesday, department heads were each required to present at least one position that could be cut if needed, as well as other “creative” ideas to save money.

The City Council will score the ideas and the result will influence how city staff prepare the budget.

“Few of these are low priorities … but each will have a major impact on both our citizens and our departments,” if they are cut, said Nathan West, director of Community and Economic Development.

“I think it’s our expectation as a city leadership team that you all can trust we already have made those common-sense decisions, that we have looked through each of our budgets and if there are common-sense changes we can make as part of the budgeting process, then it’s already been done and it’s already been made.”

He said one of the reasons for the priority setting session was because few of the “low” priority programs — meaning they would be among the first to be cut — identified during a similar process in 2015 remain.

He emphasized that priority setting doesn’t mean the city has a problem with funding, but it does prepare for the city for potential challenges if the city faces funding shortfalls or has the need to add more programs or services.

Some of the ideas presented for cost savings could have ripple effects into other departments. Others would open the city up to more liabilities.

Some ideas limited customer service and others left fewer people to do the same amount of work.

Corey Delikat, Parks and Recreation director presented three ideas that included reducing field maintenance for youth programs, a reduction of two seasonal positions and a savings of $40,000; the elimination of the beautification programs, saving one full time equivalent position and a savings of about $50,000; and reduction of support for tournaments in town, a savings of $43,000 from the general fund.

As he presented those possible cuts, Delikat told council members his 13 FTE staff is already overworked and can’t keep up with maintenance.

Delikat said that since he started in 1991, the city has inherited Volunteer Field, two softball fields at Lincoln Park, the Campfire Clubhouse, Ediz Hook Boat launches, the esplanade, the Dream Playground, the skate park, 9/11 Memorial Waterfront Park — formerly known as Francis Street Park — The Gateway, Valley Creek Estuary Park, half of the Vern Samuelson trail, the Waterfront Trail to Morse Creek, the Port Angeles Lefties and the West End Park.

He also spoke of an increase in vandalism.

“In 28 years we’ve added all this infrastructure without adding one FTE and I think that’s really irresponsible of the city,” Delikat said. “Because we cannot maintain the infrastructure we have and — looking forward — as we try to improve and add, we have no way to maintain it.

“My staff is about as dedicated as you’ll get, but they’re burnt out and we struggle every day to get by just our daily tasks.”

City Attorney Bill Bloor told the City Council his four-person department could get by without either a paralegal position or an assistant city attorney position, though the department’s abilities would be limited.

“The reason I suggested elimination of positions is because I don’t really have anything else,” he said. “We’ve already eliminated buying excess pencils. We’ve already cut down our legal research and legal reference materials to a bare minimum that we can get away with a straight face and still say we’re doing a good job.

“We’ve pretty much eliminated everything except people.”

Now City Council members are scoring those ideas, which will then be split into three categories. The highest priority categories will not be reduced; medium priority categories will be reduced if needed and the lowest priority ideas would be eliminated first.

The council members’ scorecards are due back to the City Manager’s Office by 5 p.m. July 18.

The city will have a follow-up meeting July 24 where it will accept public input. A priority setting resolution is expected to be approved Aug. 7.

Council member Mike French said he was concerned about the requirement for department heads to put one FTE on the chopping block.

“I understand the rationale for the one FTE requirement from each department, but I feel like that restriction stifled creativity in some ways,” he said. “Looking at recent staffing forced many department heads in seemingly impossible situations.”

West said that not every idea submitted to the City Manager’s office was accepted.

“Many of them were sent back, redone, went back to the drawing board, and ultimately I do feel that those that have moved forward are ones that are probably the best that some of the departments can actually move forward with,” West said.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

The Port Angeles City Council meets with departments heads for prioirty setting on Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The Port Angeles City Council meets with departments heads for prioirty setting on Tuesday. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

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