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Mayor Denis Law Delivers 2009 Budget Proposal to Renton City Council

October 27, 2008

For more information contact:

Iwen Wang, Administrator, Finance and Information Services, 425-430-6858
Preeti Shridhar, Communications Director, 425-430-6569

Budget sets priorities, emphasizes core services and stresses efficiency

RENTON: Renton Mayor Denis Law delivered his 2009 proposed budget to the Renton City Council on Monday, October 27, 2008.  The budget sets forth the actions necessary to ensure a balanced city budget, despite the effects of the current economic slowdown.

The 2009 budget emphasizes core services, eliminates duplicate functions, and stresses efficiency.  It challenges the status quo and takes a fresh look at how the city provides its core services.  

“This is a time for focusing on the city's core responsibilities and doing those things well,” said Mayor Denis Law.  “The course we must take together is clear—set priorities and take care of the basics.”

The total 2009 proposed expenditure budget is $252 million, of which $171 million is for city operations, $57 million is for debt service and proposed capital projects, and $24 million represents internal transfers that are offset by revenues.  This represents a 2% increase over the 2008 adopted budget.  The total revenues equal $245 million.  The difference between revenues and expenditures of about $7 million will be covered by prior year fund balances for capital equipment and projects.

Of the $171 million operating budget, $101 million is for General Government Operations.  These are activities primarily supported by tax revenues.  With the slowing economy and a high rate of inflation, preliminary projections indicate that maintaining current services in General Government Operations will result in a deficit of over $5 million in 2009.

In order to make up this budget gap each department reduced its budget by 7%. As a result, the proposed budget leaves 36 authorized positions unfilled and includes reductions in various services. There are no reductions to current staffing levels.

Of the $57 million in proposed capital projects, over $37 million is for transportation and utility projects, $5 million will be used to meet debt service requirements and about $13.5 million is for other projects. 

Highlights of the proposed budget include:

  • Police Department:  Hold eight positions unfilled including four civilians and four police officers, which imposes a freeze on the school resource officer program; adding an officer for the regional auto theft task force; increased police presence at the transit center.
  • Fire and Emergency Services:  Hold nine retired firefighter positions vacant in 2009 and reduce capital equipment. The department will return to the minimum staffing level of 32, with the addition of 12 new firefighters who will join Response Operations by the end of this year. Since the new firefighters will have limited time off in 2009, the need for overtime to maintain staffing levels will be greatly reduced and, as a result, there will be no impact on response times, despite holding the positions vacant in 2009. 
  • Department of Community and Economic Development:  Hold five vacant positions. Given that development activity is slow, this is expected to have limited service impacts. Initiate the community Arts and Cultural Master Plan process and launch the Community Planning Initiative.
  • Community Services:  Hold two positions vacant and reorganize staff; reduce part-time and seasonal employees; reduce funding for community events, recreation facilities, contracted geese control, downtown flower baskets, supplies, and publications; reduce free concerts at Gene Coulon Memorial Beach Park to six per year. Add a limited-term outreach librarian and funding for Parks Division equipment.
  • Public Works:  Hold five positions vacant; purchase two backhoes and a dump truck to increase efficiency by making it possible for separate crews to operate in different parts of the city at the same time.
  • City Attorney: Convert the City Attorney service from contract to in-house staff for greater efficiency. This will add about 12 positions to the city’s workforce without incurring additional costs.
  • Others: Hold three positions vacant in the Finance and Information Services Department; hold one position vacant in the Human Resources Department; hold 2.5 positions vacant in the Administrative, Judicial and Legal Services Department, and reduce travel and professional services budget.

In the utility funds, the budget proposes rate increases for Water & Wastewater but no increase for Surface Water. These proposed rate increases for 2009 are lower than what was set forth in the 2007 rate study.  In 2009 there will also be an increase in the rates for garbage collection recycling services, resulting from new solid waste/recycling collection practices and the higher operating costs reflected in the newly negotiated contract.  This rate increase is the first in eight years. 
Law also emphasized that 2008 has been a year of accomplishments in Renton. He highlighted the following:

  • The city successfully annexed new residents from the Benson Hill area and other communities and is providing them with high quality services. 
  • Under the leadership of our Police Chief, the city created a new inter-departmental initiative to emphasize code enforcement and has made great progress and achieved measurable results. The city also launched a comprehensive plan to reduce criminal activity and enhance overall safety throughout Renton, including additional security, increased patrols, security cameras, enhanced code enforcement efforts, and significant emphasis on photo enforcement and traffic safety.
  • The city was successful in recruiting new employers to Renton and encouraging high-quality development —from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco’s new Seattle branch headquarters to the amazing Seattle Seahawks’ Virginia Mason Athletic Center.  There has also been significant development at The Landing including new retail stores, restaurants and the recent opening of the movie theaters.
  • The city made improvements to parks and trails, and celebrated several festivals and events. Key road projects were started, including improvements to Duvall Avenue NE.

“Despite the economic downturn across the nation and our region, what we've been able to accomplish since January is impressive,” said Law.

“We have found many ways to reduce our costs while minimizing the impacts to our citizens,” said Law.  “This budget makes some necessary adjustments but preserves core services. We will set priorities and continue to build a sound foundation for our city.  Our budget will ensure our city remains committed to public safety, economic opportunity, core city services, and maintaining the quality of life that we are known for.” 

To view or read the mayor’s budget message and for more information on the budget, please visit