Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bellevue mayor: City is financially sound

Staff and council will assume city administratorís duties

Express Staff Writer

Chris Koch

The Bellevue City Council and staff will have to work harder to manage city affairs in the absence of a city administrator post that was indefinitely terminated last week, Mayor Chris Koch said.

Tom Blanchard served as city administrator for six years until Feb. 10, when the council voted to eliminate his position. Blanchard's main responsibilities were working directly with the mayor and the City Council to manage city affairs and the budget. He worked with city department heads and reported to the council on the city's ongoing infrastructure projects.

Koch said the council and city department heads will take over Blanchard's duties.

"It means the council and staff have to work harder to keep the city moving forward," he said.

Koch said City Clerk Dee Barton will continue to work with department heads to establish budget priorities and pass them to the council for review.

"It's part of her job and she's been doing a great job for years," Koch said. "City department heads will also have to keep an eye on their budgets to make sure they are staying within them."

City Council members will be assigned to city department liaison positions at an upcoming council meeting, as they are each term. The council members will be asked to keep abreast of issues related to the Planning Department, public works, the library, streets, Fire Department and the Marshal's Office.

Koch said grant applications will be handled by department heads, including Planning Director Craig Eckles.

"Craig wrote the Safe Routes to Schools grant and is working on two more right now," he said.

Koch said the mayor, council members or staff members will speak for the city in the absence of a city administrator.

"Like everyone in the state, we are having to tighten our belt and look at ways to save the taxpayers money," he said. "Our plan is to be fiscally reasonable with the taxpayers' money. We are always looking at ways to improve our city without putting more of a burden on the folks that live here."

In 2009, the City Council reduced all staff hours and reduced staff benefits. Last year, the council restored some hours to staff positions, but the staff is still working scaled-back 38-hour weeks.

Koch said he could not say whether any other cuts to services or staff might happen later this year.

He said the city is having no trouble paying long-term bills, including bond payments for the city's new sewage-treatment facility.

"We look at the budget two to three times a month to make sure we're being good stewards of the money that is available," he said.

He said the challenge is in trying to make more with less.

The city's general fund expenditures total a little over $1.1 million for fiscal year 2011.

The part-time city administrator position comprised 19 hours of work per week. The annual cost of the position was $38,600, meaning the city will save about $24,125 for the remainder of this fiscal year.

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