OPINION | Marysville’s plan for financial stability

I want to extend my best wishes to the citizens of Marysville in the New Year. We faced trying and challenging economic times during 2010. While we, like you, are making resolutions in hopes of signs of a stronger economy, the messages are mixed, suggesting that the recovery will continue — but at what rate is anyone’s guess.

Our nation and region struggled under last year’s financial pressures, and while Marysville fared better than many jurisdictions, the trickle-down impact the bottomed-out economy has had on our basic government services has been very evident, both now and into the foreseeable future.

During the process to adopt the city budget for 2011, my first initiative as Mayor was to plan for long-term financial stability as the way to invest more responsibly in Marysville’s future. We should not budget based upon hopes of an economic recovery but rather based upon the realities of our current economic situation. Businesses and individual families have been making tough decisions adapting to the new “economic realities” for the past few years, and your government should be expected to do the same.

It is essential that we continue to reform the way the city does business in order to meet these challenges facing everyone. Government at all levels is facing this and there is really no substitute for decisive action as delay only enhances the size of the problem.

A thorough process of prioritizing the essential core services of government, developing a disciplined spending plan and maintaining solvency across all funds is essential.

That is the approach we took when the City Council in November adopted a $119 million city budget for 2011, with a $34.9 million General Fund for basic services. The budget was deliberately drafted to look beyond 2011 and create financial stability for the long term.

We faced a 2010 revenue shortfall and 2011 revenue projections that forced immediate budget cuts. City departments reduced operating expenditures and the employee workforce was reduced 10 percent from 2010 through layoffs and removal of vacant positions. Budget reserves were replenished to a level that will help buffer the city against fiscal uncertainty — reserves are at 6.5 percent for 2011, with the goal of increasing those levels in the future to provide financial security and stability for the city.

The result was a model for future spending plans: a balanced budget that reduced overall expenditures, replenished depleted reserves, and paid down city debt more aggressively.

In simpler terms, we took the same approach that cash-strapped families everywhere are doing in their own homes today: be honest about what we can afford, focus funding on just our core priorities, and save for tomorrow’s needs.

The new year will undoubtedly present us with further challenges. As we make our resolutions for 2011, let us go forward with great hope that the decisions we make today will contribute in the long run to a Marysville that is vibrant, diverse and growing, where our younger generations have access to opportunities to live and work in the community where they were raised and educated.

On behalf of the City Council and employees of the city of Marysville, I wish everyone a safe, happy and prosperous new year.

Mayor Jon Nehring can be reached at mayor@marysvillewa.gov.

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