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UPDATE | MORE BUDGET CUTS COMING: Employee laid off in Langley, finance department will also be reduced

LANGLEY — One public works employee at city hall was laid off on Friday, and Langley city workers will face another year of frozen wages and no cost-of-living or merit raises, city officials said Monday after the release of the proposed 2011 budget.

Some city departments will face budget reductions, with the largest cuts centered on the finance department.

Mayor Paul Samuelson presented next year’s spending plan to the city council at its Monday meeting and said he looked forward to “real fruitful and strong conversations” on the proposal.

Total spending for 2011 is $4.5 million, up slightly from $4.3 million budgeted for this year. ill drop next year, but not by much. The general fund pays for basic government services such as planning, police and parks, and next year’s pot of money — $1,355,395 — represents a drop of $1,662 over the

2010 budget level.

Langley Finance Director Debbie Mahler gave an overview of next year’s budget, which included an estimate that the city will bring in $383,129 in property taxes in 2011.

Sales-tax revenues are expected to take a hit, dropping to $282,000 from the $303,725 that was expected to come in this year.

In her written budget message to the council and mayor, Mahler said the recession’s continuing impact is being felt, and noted “revenue issues have become grave concerns.”

Tourism has dropped, property sales and home prices have fallen, and building and development has tanked, to a pace Mahler called “a virtual standstill.”

The reduction of a full-time public works employee is not the only trimming of staff that’s part of the

2011 budget; the budget also includes staffing cuts in the finance department that city officials have not yet detailed.

Also set to be pruned: the parks department, which will be taken down to expenditure levels last seen in 2004.

Most funds in the 2011 budget for the general fund will see reduced levels of spending.

The finance department will take the biggest whack, with cuts of $42,104 planned, leaving the department’s budget at $197,055 next year.

The general fund area facing the next biggest reduction is in the building department, with a proposed drop of $26,927, largely attributable to the city’s move away from a contracted position for the city’s building official.

A total of $14,444 in cuts are planned to the parks department budget.

Other areas of the general fund will grow next year.

Funding for the city’s planning department is expected to increase by $13,707 next year to $188,597, but 37 percent of the budget will come from grants.

General government services will rise $11,648 to $110,387, mostly because of an increase in insurance costs.

The budget for the police department will expand by $6,634 to a total of $361,804, even though the position for Police Chief Bob Herzberg will not be replaced in the 2011 budget.

City spending on attorneys will rise from the $12,108 in this year’s budget to $35,000 next year.

Due to legal services spent on personnel matters and other issues, however, Langley is well beyond this year’s budgeted amount.

Budget records show the city spent $35,747 on legal services through September.

The first public hearing on the budget will be at the city council meeting on Nov. 15, and another public hearing will be held Dec. 6.

By state law, the city’s 2011 budget must be adopted by the end of the year.

At Monday’s meeting, council members, and the mayor, were nearly silent about the city’s first layoff prompted by next year’s budget. The topic did not come up during the budget session of the council meeting, and officials were reluctant to talk about it afterward.

When asked after this week’s council meeting to discuss the staff reduction, council members Robert Gilman, Bob Waterman and Rene Neff deferred questions to the mayor, calling it an administrative matter and citing Samuelson’s role as the executive head of city government.

Samuelson initially declined to answer questions about the layoff, simply stating: “It’s a personnel issue.”

When pressed, Samuelson acknowledged the layoff occurred Friday, but would not name the employee involved.

Neff and Waterman also declined to name the worker, and council members said that announcement should come from the mayor.

Neff and Waterman said they were told by the mayor about the staff reduction on Friday.

Before last Friday, the public works department had six employees: the public works department director, field supervisor, utility supervisor, and three utility/maintenance employees.

After Monday’s meeting, Councilwoman Fran Abel also deferred on questions about the layoff, and said she had not been told the employee’s name.

“I don’t know,” Abel said.

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