The Council budget briefings continue…
911 Communications Budget
The division has shown amazing results in their response times for answering 911 calls. Industry standards are to exceed 91% answering in under 10 sec. The department has consistently improved and last year had a record 97.5%. Really impressive. It also is remarkable given the incredible strain on these 911 operators. And the high turnover. To this end, the department has drawn up plans to address this professional strain, but due to the pandemic and subsequent economic declines, they won’t be a part of this coming budget. However. I am very interested in their ideas on providing more time off for greater work/home balance and hope to discuss them further in the coming months?
Public Services Budget
This is perhaps the most varied department in the city including streets, parks, family services, compliance urban forestry, youth and family services, trails, public lands and special events. With these departments, there is a lot of direct public services and with a decreased budget (mostly keeping open positions vacant) there may be impacts this summer in most, if not all, of these departments. These are painful to think about. Weed abatement is not funded, and we likely need to find a way to do this to mitigate fire hazards if this continues to be a dry summer. Parks will not have nearly as many staff for maintenance. Streets might see a decrease in immediate fixes even if we can continue to do major projects.
One of the most worrisome is that the private company who was hired to handle our school crossing guards has not been able to weather the economic downturn. So, the city plans to use city staff from enforcement to ensure all crossings are staffed this coming fall, assuming full opening of schools at that point.
This department requires general fund subsidies to operate and had planned to go to the public with proposed rate increases for waste and recycling this year. However, due to the budget and general economic problems, the mayor has proposed to delay this until future years however, this is coming, and we need to look at how to do it. As costs go up, we can simply cut back service, do incremental increases or wait and do larger increases less frequently. I would generally propose the incremental approach, as hard as it is to raise fees, so we can do so gently with some carve outs for people on fixed incomes. But that is a discussion for another year.
Learn more about the proposed City budget here.