The city of Blaine is planning to eliminate about 10 percent of its staff in a round of layoffs that would be the first of this extent in a decade.
City manager Mike Harmon gave notice to employees September 13-15 that the city planned to eliminate 6.5 of its approximately 65 full-time positions on November 1. The city also plans to not hire a vacant IT, planner and one of its two vacant police officer positions.
The layoffs would impact the following staffed city positions: One police department position, 2.5 finance department positions, two public works positions, a half-time court position and a half-time clerk’s office position.
The city would save about $800,000 to $900,000 in its 2024 budget if it cut those positions, Harmon said. Other cuts to the approximately $40 million budget could include reductions to travel, consultants, technology and supplies.
The layoffs are subject to Blaine City Council’s decision. City council will approve, deny or modify the layoffs in the 2024 budget. If council decides it wants to keep the positions, it will need to spend less on capital improvement projects to balance the budget, Harmon said.
“The city has a structural deficit in the number of revenues coming into the general fund and the number of operations we have,” Harmon said.
Last fall, city council prepared for a $950,000 deficit in its 2023 general fund, where salaries and wages make up over 60 percent of expenses. The budget became unbalanced as inflation increased employees’ salaries and wages but revenue didn’t increase.
City finance director Daniel Heverling said earlier this year that the city was slated to deplete all of its $4 million reserves by 2026 if it followed the trajectory predicted in the 2023 budget. However, as of September 19, Heverling said the city was only expected to use about $100,000 to $200,000 of its reserves by the end of 2023, a result of unexpected staffing vacancies and an improved sales tax.
Harmon said the city plans to shift responsibilities, consolidate work to fewer employees and hire consultants to fill the gaps.
City officials decided to cut some positions, such as those in the police department and court, because they are funded primarily through the general fund, Harmon said. Other salaries are spread among several funds.
City officials will take a hard look at which vacant positions to fill, Harmon said.
The city last laid off employees in 2013, when it eliminated six positions in the general fund after Semiahmoo Resort closed, Heverling said. Before then, the city laid off one employee in 2011 and two positions in 2003.
Harmon said it’s unlikely the city will request city council eliminate more positions.
“If economic conditions in 2024 were to change, it is possible, but at this point, I think it’s highly unlikely that additional positions will be given notice,” he said.
City council will begin reviewing the 2024 budget during its next meeting on Monday, September 25.
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